On 20th March, over 100 history and politics students at Godalming College were invited to hear the testimony from Holocaust survivor, Joanna Millan, as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). The visit marks the 70th year of the end of the second world war and liberation of thousands of Jews, many of whom settled in this country.
Joanna talked to the students about her own story accompanied by a presentation of evocative photographs to enable students to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth. She reflected on how the Holocaust was allowed to happen and how it was a series of circumstances which involved almost everyone playing their part.
Joanna, who was born Bela, was orphaned during the war and was imprisoned at the Theresienstadt ghetto. She was one of six children from the ghetto to be flown to England and was given a new identity when she was adopted by a Jewish couple living in London. She grew up hiding her real identity for fear of antisemitism. She married, had three children and has eight grandchildren. She is a magistrate and speaks regularly about her experience of the Holocaust and is passionate about teaching respect.
This week 28 upper sixth students will be travelling to Poland to visit Krakow and Auschwitz and Joanna's story has made their visit very poignant. Many students in the past have reported that their visit to Poland has had a profound affect on them.
Judith Smith, Head of History and Politics at Godalming College said:
“It is a privilege for us to welcome Joanna Millan to our school and her 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 Joanna’s testimony, it will encourage our students to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and make a positive difference in their own lives.”
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. Joanna’s story is one of tremendous courage during horrific circumstances and by hearing her 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.”