Tears as holocaust survivor gives talk

Joe Stirling, who moved to the country during the Nazi Germany regime, with David Grocott, head of humanities at Ormiston Sudbury Academy. ANL-150906-170724001

Joe Stirling, who moved to the country during the Nazi Germany regime, with David Grocott, head of humanities at Ormiston Sudbury Academy. ANL-150906-170724001

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There was hardly a dry eye in the room when a holocaust survivor gave students a talk.

Joe Stirling, 90, a survivor of the Jewish ‘Kindertransport’ evacuation of Germany just prior to the Second World War, gave Year 9 students at Ormiston Sudbury Academy a graphic account of his experiences.

The Acedemy’s Head of Humanities, David Grocott, said: “I hope the students remember this for a very long time and think about how it affected those who lived through it.”

Students had to imagine themselves as the young 13-year-old, about the same age as they are now. He had to pack all his belongings into one small suitcase and leave his family and travel by the childrens’ train to Harwich in Essex, with hundreds of other children in similar circumstances, often as young as five. This was last time he saw his parents, whom, it later emerged, died in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany occupied Poland.

Mr Stirling spoke vividly about his life as the only Jewish child in a small rural village in Koblenz, Germany. His father thought of himself as German, but after all the synagogues were burnt on the night of the Krystallnacht on the 8/9 November, everything changed.

Gradually most of his young friends joined the Hitler youth movement, and his father was taken away. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to the concentration camps.

Mr Stirling said he was desperate to get away anywhere to escape the situation and after making an abortive attempt to join the train to freedom, he finally got to stay with a family in Birmingham, just six weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War - only to be evacuated to a family in Gloucester shortly afterwards.

At the end of his talk there were few dry eyes as everyone thought about his journey to a “long and successful life” in his adopted country.

Year 9 student Bradley Haworth said: “It is one thing to read about it in a book, but to hear it person from someone who was actually there is mind-blowing.”