On Friday 11th May, pupils from Years 6-13 will hear testimony from Holocaust survivor, Rudi Oppenheimer, as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
The testimony will be followed by a question and answer session to enable pupils 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.
Mr Jeremy Walker, the Principal of King’s Rochester, said:
“It is a privilege for us to welcome Rudi Oppenheimer to our school 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 Rudi’s testimony, it will encourage our pupils 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. Rudi’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.”
For more information about the Holocaust Educational Trust please visit www.het.org.uk
About Rudi Oppenheimer
Rudi was born in 1931 in Berlin and lived there with his parents and his older brother Paul until he was four years old. In 1936, to escape increasing Nazi persecution, the Oppenheimer’s managed to move to Holland. Before they moved to Heemstede in Holland, Rudi lived for six months in Britain with his mother and brother. It was here that his sister, Eve, was born.
In May 1940 the Nazis invaded Holland. By October 1942, Jews were being rounded up and deported. Rudi and his family, who had been living in Amsterdam since May 1942, were temporarily spared deportation as his father was working for the Jewish Council.
As Eve had been born in the UK, Rudi’s father registered her in June 1942 as a British subject. Rudi`s family were now classified as ‘Exchange’ Jews, which meant that they might be exchanged for Germans captured by the Allies and were to be exempt from certain measures taken against other Jews. This allowed Rudi and his family to remain in Westerbork until February 1944, at which point they were deported to Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
As Exchange Jews, Rudi and his family received certain privileges in Bergen-Belsen. Nevertheless, the family suffered terrible living conditions and in January 1945, Rudi’s mother died, followed two months later by the death of his Father.
On 10th April 1945, the Oppenheimer children were on the last train to leave Bergen-Belsen. After travelling for 14 days they awoke on the train to find that the SS guards had gone; they recognised soldiers from the Russian army and realised that they had been liberated.
The Oppenheimers had family in London, so it was here that they headed to join their uncle and aunt. Rudi is now retired and talks regularly about his wartime experiences in schools and universities across the country.