Holocaust survivor visits Backwell School

On Tuesday 18 June, Backwell School was incredibly privileged to be visited by holocaust survivor, John Dobai. Year 12 and 13 students of history, sociology, philosophy and religion listened to John recount his  experience as a young boy in Hungary during World War II.  The presentation was incredibly moving; seeing pictures of John’s friends and family throughout his childhood and hearing about the traumatic experiences they went through.

John was born in 1934 in Budapest, Hungary and his family converted to Roman Catholicism as they were concerned about the rise of fascism and the Nazi party. John’s father was taken to a forced labour camp in 1941 and in March 1944 Germany occupied Hungary. Between June 1944 and January 1945 John and his mother lived in terrible conditions in houses designated as Jewish residences. Relatives were transported to Auschwitz and childhood friends were killed. In January 1945 the siege in Budapest ended and John and his parents moved to the UK in 1948, where he completed school and studied Chemistry at university.

(left to right – Eleanor Turk, John Dobai, Becca Stansfield, Stephanie Kite and Eleanor Windsor (the students also undertook the visit to Auschwitz)

Following John’s presentation, which also covered the historical context to the holocaust, a question and answer session was held. Students asked a wide range of questions covering topics such as religion and racial hatred.

One of the more moving sections of John’s talk was his advice to young people today: “Be respectful to others, and challenge those who are being rude, racist or intolerant. Live a great life.”

The visit was organised by four Sixth Form students who visited Poland earlier this year as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust “Lessons from Auschwitz” programme.

During their visit to Poland they heard from holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis MBE which prompted them to contact the Holocaust Trust Outreach Programme so that other young people could learn greatly from hearing a personal first hand account of the holocaust.

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