Pupils at Sibford School received a lesson in tolerance and understanding when they were visited by Holocaust survivor, Zigi Shipper.
The 84-year-old told students from Years 6 through to 13: “We want young people to know what happened because of racism, prejudice and of course hatred. People say to me ‘how do I remember?’ But the question should be, ‘how can I forget?’ I can’t forget when most members of my family and some many millions of other people were slaughtered, all for no reason at all.”
Zigi, who was incarcerated in a number of camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau, described how starvation totally de-humanised the inhabitants. “Pain goes away,” he said. “But hunger never does. If you’re starving you do things you cannot imagine. I was getting up in the morning and stepping over dead bodies and it didn’t mean a thing. I was completely de-humanised.”
And he told students that the number of deaths was far more than many imagine. “I’m always asked about those who were gassed,” he said. “But many more people were dying every day, so many people, killed by rifles and shooting and of course starvation and disease.
“Even after the war ended, people were dying. The British Army brought in tins of meat, tins of fruit, bars of chocolate and biscuits but it was the worse thing they could do. We had been starving for months. People were dying from overeating.”
Asked why he didn’t feel ‘incredibly angry’ about what he had experienced he said: “I love life. I was lucky. Sure I have regrets, I regret that I wasn’t able to hug my grandmother before she died. But why hate? If you hate you have no life.
“Why do we hate, just because someone looks different? We’re all the same. We are all human beings. Things still happen today that shouldn’t happen. It’s why 99% of the talks I do are to young people … because you can make a difference. “