Holocaust memorial day with Mrs Renee Salt, survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp

On Thursday 25th January 2018, ten fortunate Year 9 students had the unique opportunity to visit the Jewish Free School in Kenton for Holocaust Memorial Day. To begin, all students and teachers were handed out a leaflet about the day ahead and guided by JFS students into the theatre. On entering the impressive facility, the students were introduced to the Headteacher of JFS. Similar to Alperton, JFS have 3 R’s: remember, reflect, and react. They value their three R’s so much that the Headteacher opened and closed his speech with them. Soon after, the attention was handed over to the Holocaust survivor to tell the students her powerful, moving story.

Out of the 6 million people who were unfortunately affected by the Holocaust, there are 100,000 Holocaust survivors still alive today. Sadly, as the students found out, one survivor dies every hour. For every 1 Holocaust survivor alive, there are approximately 60 Jewish people dead. Hence, there is a minimal amount of brave survivors left to really give the world a sense of the sheer brutality they saw, smelt, heard, felt and lived. Consequently, the Year 9s were extremely fortunate to be able to take in the heart-breaking story that Mrs Renee Salt, born in 1929, had the courage to tell. Along with around 3 other Year 10 classes from various schools in Brent, they engaged in her experiences and some were brought to tears.

After learning about Mrs Salt’s tragic past, the students were given the opportunity to participate in one of the two workshops. Each student taking part in the Holocaust Memorial Day had a sticker with their name and a number. Every table in the conference centre had a corresponding number. So the ten Year 9 students were split up into nine different tables with students from other schools. For some, it may have been slightly daunting at first to be surrounded by people all a year older. However, soon everyone took it in their stride and really showed off the 4 R’s of Alperton. They were ready to socialise, respectful of other people’s opinions, responsible of their learning, and resilient when thinking of answers to challenging questions. Not only was this refreshing, but it was also very useful for the Year 9’s current History topic. The aim of this workshop was to analyse Nazi propaganda posters and write down, as a group, what they collectively thought the meaning was.

‘Moral Dilemmas of the Holocaust’ was the name of the second and final workshop that took place after the delicious food provided by the cooking staff at JFS. Much to the gratitude of the students, JFS Sixth Formers were introduced and allocated seats with each group in order to take part in the fascinating workshop. This was a great privilege because the Sixth Formers recently returned from their trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland – the very concentration camp where Mrs Renee Salt was forced to laboriously work in. The Sixth From students were extremely knowledgeable and shared their experiences in great detail throughout the workshop.

Placed on the tables were laminated sheets of paper with ‘agree’ on one side, and ‘disagree’ on the other. The engaging presenter of the PowerPoint, Miss Krieger (a JFS Religious Studies teacher), showed moral dilemmas concerning the Holocaust. In groups, the students had to discuss their opinions and reach a decision to be shared with everyone in the room. As it went on, the dilemmas got tougher and tougher; it became increasingly difficult to reach a definite conclusion. Examples include: “The Nazis used to carry out torturous, ‘scientific’ experiments on the Jews in the camps. Do you think it’s acceptable to use the medical data recorded from that time, in today’s society?”

To end the Holocaust Memorial Day, the students were asked to evaluate what they experienced.

“It’s amazing how much pain and suffering Mrs Salt has endured and how much of a strong woman it has made her. Not once did she say she hated the Nazis for the scars imprinted on her. Not once. Mrs Salt left me with a message that is deeply embedded into my everyday life: it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, we should all try to live in peace” (Esther Engola, 9X.)

“It was much more than just a day off school; not only were we enriched with the knowledge of the Holocaust and its survivors, but I even met one myself! What more can you expect?” (Adam Ali, 9X).

“A thrilling experience that taught me a lot about the past” (Nabiha Shaikh, 9X)

(Article written by Esther Engola, 9X)