*What I witnessed as a nine-year old boy is impossible to describe. The starvation, the cruelty of the camp guards, the cold and disease, People, who were just skin and bone and looked like living skeltons, were walking around very slowly, some of them were dropping where they fell, never to get up again. They were dying in their hundreds, their emancipated bodies left where they fell or thrown into heaps. In front of our barracks there were piles of deomposing corpses. For many prisoners of Bergen-Belsen the conditions were too much to bear and they threw themselves on the electricified fence at night in order to end their misery. We found their corpses there in the morning. *
On the 21st of October, 3rd, 5th and 6th years had the honour of meeting Tomi Reichental, one of the few remaining survivors of the holocaust. He spoke for an hour and a half describing to us how he once he was a happy boy in Slovakia until Tiso’s regime which caused the deportation of 80 per cent of the Jewish population.
Tomi’s family did everything they could to stay alive. His father sacrificed his life to stay in Slovakia to support his family and they changed their surnames to “Vida” as it was a typical surname. However, in November 1944 he was transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration along with his mother, brother, grandmother, aunt and cousin.
It was quite evident from the way Tomi spoke that everything that happened to him cannot be forgotten. He was taken in when he was 9 and 35 members of his family were to taken to detention camps. He stayed in the detention centre in Bergen-Belsen. He remained very close to his older brother who also seemed to be protecting him.
People in these concentration camps were only given 600 calories a day when the average human needed 2000 to survive. Tomi believed they “were treated worst than animals.” They were being starved.
One thing that stuck out was how Tomi said that as you were being called for roll call you weren’t allowed to say goodbye to your family. The corpses weren’t even taken care of in the camps. The children played around them and avoided them. Then in 1945, the Germans abandoned the camps for four days. They were left without food or water and were barely surviving with the food they were getting.
Tomi told us that the day the British told them they were liberated was supposed to bring them joy, although it didn’t because 90% of the people were dying. He revealed to us that you can’t forget the horror of something like this but you can learn from it.
Tomi has written a book about his experiences called "I was a boy in Belsen" and he was an inspiration to all that listened to him that day. You can watch the video of his inspirational talk below.
Timmi Adesanya,5th Year. St.Kevins.