Holocaust story inspires Bruntcliffe Academy students

Arek Hersh (second, right) was a special visitor to Bruntcliffe Academy.
Arek Hersh (second, right) was a special visitor to Bruntcliffe Academy.

Bruntcliffe Academy recently held the second in a series of workshops aimed at delivering key messages to their pupils - with a very special guest in attendance.

Be Smart days are designed to offer enrichment opportunities, centred on delivering key messages about health, morals and careers.

Students worked in groups named after famous Britons and worked through a series of carefully-planned sessions delivered by teaching staff and external professionals.

Topics covered included managing relationships, understanding labour market information with regards to careers, understanding how to be financially capable and dispelling the myths surrounding extremism.

A spokesperson said: “What made the day so successful was the fact that groups are in direct competition with each other and are awarded points for attitude and collaboration.  

“But the pinnacle of the day took place during the morning sessions.

“The academy was honoured to welcome Arek Hersh, a Holocaust survivor, who came to take to all year groups about his unbelievable, and all too often heart-breaking life story.”

Arek’s presentation left audiences at the Academy stunned into silence.”

At the age of 13 Arek was taken by the Nazis, and in the process, would never see his family again.

Through the use of a pre-produced video and personal insight, Arek recounted his life at six camps, including Sieradz, Lodz, Chelmno, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt.  

Somehow, he managed to survive and explained how the split decisions he made as a very young boy prevented him from being murdered.  

Arek recounted how in Lodz he switched lines because he noticed that the people in the right hand line looked fitter and healthier, and therefore were more likely to be used for work.

He was correct as all the people in the left hand line were marched off to be executed.

David Lee, a member of the English department, said: “The Academy was absolutely honoured to have Arek and his wife Jean with them for the day.

“The response from students was breathtaking.

“Their respect and admiration for all that Arek has seen and experienced was clear to see.”