Holocaust survivor tells his story to school children

A photo taken in 1945 showing Holocaust survivors returning to Libya from Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen after the
A photo taken in 1945 showing Holocaust survivors returning to Libya from Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen after the "Libyan Jews holocaust"

A Holocaust survivor has begun a tour of schools to tell school children of his experiences during World War Two as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps.

Tomi Reichental was nine when he saw his grandmother’s dead body thrown on to a cart along with hundreds of other corpses and carted away.

At that young age Tomi was arrested and beaten by the Gestapo, the Nazis’ ferocious intelligence arm, from a shop in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Tomi was transported in a cattle train along with thousands of other Jews to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  He remembers seeing the burning glow coming from the crematorium as they arrived at the camp, and the smell of decaying bodies. He also remembers the shouting and barking dogs as Tomi, his family and all the other Jews were dragged from the train.

Tomi is now 80 and is holding the attention of teenagers with his real life story.  He makes a point so telling the youngsters to not let bullying take place at any level. He says that if they see anyone being victimized they have to stand up for them.

Tomi’s story has been published into a memoir called ‘I Was a Boy in Belsen’. He never spoke of his war time experiences until after the death of his wife in 2003.

Tomi believes that he now owes it to all the victims of the Nazis to tell his story and prevent the same thing ever happening again.

When Tomi first took to school halls to tell his story he says it wasn’t easy and he would often break down. But as his audience became enthralled with his story and he could see that what he was telling them was making a difference it bolstered him on to go on and continue telling his story.

Just before Tomi and his family were transported to Bergen-Belsen the crematories at Auschwitz and Birkenau were destroyed because of the advancing Soviet troops. Tomi believes that this is what saved his family’s lives and sent them to Bergen-Belsen, otherwise they would have been sent straight to Auschwitz for termination, The New York Times reports.

Fortunately Tomi’s father was able to escape and he spent the rest of the war with the resistance. The family was reunited after the war in Slovakia, but finding that their home was no longer what it had been before the war, they left for Israel.

Tomi later moved to Dublin, Ireland to start a business and has lived there ever since.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE