Following their trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau last Autumn, as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project, Barton Peveril Students Jess Asbury and Jade Bone invited Holocaust survivor Walter Kammerling to speak to fellow history students at the College.
Eastleigh’s MP, Mike Thornton, who had accompanied the students on their trip to the former Nazi Death camp in Poland, was also invited to the lecture.
At the age of 15, Walter Kammerling witnessed the events of 9-10 November 1938 , more commonly known as Kristallnacht [n.b the night of broken glass], when Jewish synagogues, shops, businesses and homes were attacked across Germany and Austria. At least 91 Jews were killed, whilst 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps. During World War II, these concentration camps evolved into Nazi Death camps, with Auschwitz-Birkenau [and others] notorious for being designed to carry out the killing on an industrial scale.
Walter came to Britain on the Kindertransport, a rescue mission during the nine prior to the outbreak of WWII, which saw the UK take-in some 10,000 Jewish children. After he left Vienna, Walter never saw his parents or his eldest sister again. After the war, he discovered that they were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz, just a few months before the camp’s liberation in January 1945.
Speaking to an audience of students, staff and invited guests, 90 yr old Walter Kammerling emphasised his dislike of the ‘Kristallnacht’ label, saying;
“It wasn’t romantic. It was a very nasty pogrom.” [n.b. a series of co-ordinated attacks]
“With a stroke the Jews in Vienna became outlaws in the truest sense of the word.”
Walter Kammerling then called on teenagers to trust their judgement and not turn away from the reality of prejudice, saying;
“Everyone has his or her prejudices. The only difference is how we deal with them. It means going against the stream, going against the peer pressure. But it is worth it.”
Having completed the first part of the Lessons from Aushcwitz project and visited the site of the atrocities, Jess Asbury and Jade Bone are now Next Step Ambassadors for the Holocaust Educational Trust. They follow in the footsteps of Jessica Jelley and Katie Wilson, who participated in the same project 12 months earlier. You may recall that Jessica explained to Eastleigh News what the experience was like.
Commenting on the emotional impact of hearing Walter speak at first hand, Mike Thornton said;
“Walter Kammerling’s story was incredibly powerful and served as a vital reminder of the horrific brutality of the Nazi regime,”
“His personal account, his remaining pain at the loss of his whole family and his paramount desire to ensure that we all counter hatred was inspiring. I urge anyone who is given the opportunity to take the Holocaust Educational Trust trip to Auschwitz to do so.”
The Lessons from Auschwitz project offers 16-18 year-olds a profound insight into the realities of history, honouring the memory of the lives that were lost while taking forward lessons taught by those who survived the atrocities. The project, runs on an annual cycle, so two more Barton Peveril students will have the same experience this autumn. The idea is that there will be many such Ambassadors in future, continuing to speak about the lessons from the Holocaust when the survivors are no longer able to do so themselves.