Holocaust survivor visits local school
21 June 2016
Students from Pencoed Comprehensive School have heard the testimony of Holocaust survivor, Janine Webber, during a recent visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
Janine talked to pupils about her experiences in the Second World War during the Nazi regime's infamous persecution of Jews across Europe.
The testimony was followed by a question and answer session to enable students to better understand Janine’s journey of survival, the nature of the Holocaust, and to explore its lessons in more depth.
David George, Headteacher of Pencoed Comprehensive School, said: “It was a privilege for us to welcome Janine Webber 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 Janine’s testimony, it will encourage our students to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and make a positive difference in their own lives.”
Back in February, Sarah Williams, the school’s RE teacher, and two sixth form students who are HET ambassadors, visited the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project
As a result, the survivor visit was organised as part of a Holocaust-themed day for year 12 students - in essence to educate about the genocide. Workshops were held throughout the day to prepare for the testimony and discussions were held on the morality of perpetrators, bystanders and victims of the Holocaust.
Councillor Huw David, Deputy Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council, said: "It’s so important that we continue to educate children and young people so that the experiences and words of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust continues to inform our lives today and becomes a meaningful part of our future. Survivors like Janine are keeping the memory alive so that lessons of the Holocaust can be learnt and never forgotten.
“Janine's story is one of tremendous courage during horrific circumstances and by hearing her testimony, students have had the opportunity to learn where prejudice and racism can ultimately lead.”
Janine was born in Lwów in Poland (now Ukraine) in 1932. Following the Nazi occupation of this area, persecution of the Jews began immediately. Janine and her family were forced to move into an area outside of the town, in preparation for the establishment of a ghetto.
On hearing the Nazis were coming to raid their home, Janine, her brother and mother hid in a hole beneath a wardrobe – but her father was shot and other members of her family were deported to concentration camps.
In 1941, Janine and her family were forced in to a ghetto. Her mother died of typhus shortly afterwards. Her uncle was able to find non-Jewish families outside of the ghetto who were prepared to hide Janine. However when she was nine, the non-Jewish family that Janine and her seven-year-old brother were staying with betrayed them. Janine managed to flee, but her brother was shot by an SS officer.
Never revealing her Jewish identity, Janine worked as a shepherdess, hid in an attic with 12 other Jews, stayed in a convent and served as a maid. Six months after the end of the war, Janine’s aunt returned for her and they moved to Paris. She moved to the UK in 1956 where she met and married her late husband. They had two sons and two grandsons. She now regularly shares her testimony with schools on behalf of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the HET commented: “We educate and engage students from all communities across the UK about the Holocaust - there can be no better way than through the first-hand testimony of a survivor.
“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.”
The visit was part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available to schools across the UK.