Eighty students from Stoke on Trent College and the City of Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College have heard a testimony from Holocaust survivor, Uri Winterstein, as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
Uri kindly shared with students his personal account of the horror he witnessed, including the loss of nine family members, including his 91-year-old grandmother, who were sent to Auschwitz where they were killed.
His testimony was followed by a question and answer session, to enable students to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth. The visit is part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available to schools across the UK.
Uri’s visit comes just weeks ahead of the college’s annual Challenge Poland trip, which takes a group of students from both colleges on a trip to explore the country and find out more about its history.
Uri Winterstein, 71, said: “I feel it’s important to carry out these talks because it is telling people what can happen in countries when ideas become prejudice and extreme. It is about the future and not wanting anyone to have to go through what we went through. It shouldn’t happen to anyone.
“One of the nice surprises about doing these talks in that the reception from young people has always been great. It’s quite a long talk for people to sit through, especially for the much younger audiences, yet the sit their quietly and patiently taking in what is being said. They then always ask interesting questions.
“I wasn’t expecting this reaction at all when I started; I began this journey with a heavy heart, yet it has been one of the positives for me seeing how great the kids have been.
“The hardest part is talking about my family members who were killed, in particularly my two cousins. I still find that difficult.
“I hope that when I speak about the odd moment of humanity that we encountered resonates with these young people. I tell them about a soldier who approached my sister and said ‘don’t be afraid little girl, I have a daughter like you’ which touched me very much. It was these moments of humanity that helped get me through and gives me hope for the future.”
Calvin Austin, Learner Coordinator at Stoke on Trent College, said: “It is a privilege for us to welcome Uri Winterstein to our college and his testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced.
“We are grateful to the Holocaust Educational Trust for co-ordinating the visit and we hope that by hearing Uri’s testimony, it will encourage our students to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and make a positive difference in their own lives.
“After hearing Uri talk about his experience the students will now visit Poland, which will include a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp, Schindler’s Museum and stay in the Jewish quarter of Krakow during a four day stay, with the aim of offering them the chance to learn about the genocide and experience a completely different culture.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust added: “The Holocaust Educational Trust educates and engages students from across the UK, from all communities about the Holocaust and there can be no better way than through the first-hand testimony of a survivor. Uri’s story is one of tremendous courage during horrific circumstances and by hearing his testimony, students will have the opportunity to learn where prejudice and racism can ultimately lead.
“At the Trust, we impart the history of the Holocaust to young people, to ensure that we honour the memory of those whose lives were lost and take forward the lessons taught by those who survived.”
To find out more about the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) please visit www.het.org.uk.