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On Friday 9th January, a Holocaust survivor visited Year 10 History classes to tell her shocking story of concentration camp life. The classes were speechless when they heard the horrific ordeals that Joanna Millan suffered in the Thereseinstadt Camp.

Millan, whose original name was Bela, was only two years old when she, along with her mother, was rounded up like cattle and sent to the concentration camp. Her father had previously been taken to a different camp, and she never saw him again. Sadly, her mother died of tuberculosis the following year, leaving her all alone. There were five other orphan children at the camp, and the six of them relied upon each other and became extremely close. She struggled through the next two years with nearly no food or drink. One woman, Listka, who had been given hard labour on the vegetable patch, saved small amounts of fresh vegetables for Joanna and snuck them to her when she could. Without this help, Millan would most likely have died.

In May 1945, the camp was liberated by the Red Cross. The six orphans stayed at the camp to be treated by the doctors, unsure of where their futures would lead. However, on 15th August 1945, their luck changed. A group of RAF bombers, bringing back Czech pilots from Britain, took 700 children back to England. Upon arrival, she was scared. None of the orphan children spoke English and they had no family. Shortly thereafter, an MP found a house for the orphans to stay in. They were eventually adopted by Jewish families. Joanna's family insisted she changed her name from Bela to something more English to help her 'fit in,' and she was told not to mention that they were not her real parents. All through life she has lived with two identities!

After her youth, Millan became a magistrate and owned a small business which sold double basses and strings. She searched for her relatives all over the world and eventually found family in Germany, Australia, and the USA. Despite everything she has lived through, she is an extremely friendly and happy person.

The visit linked directly to our classwork because at GCSE we study Nazi Germany. It was a huge eye-opener and illustrated to us just how cruel and inhumane the Nazis treated people. It also helped us to reflect on how different the world is now and how much has changed since the appalling events of World War II.

By: Ben Bassett, Poltair News Team


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