Saturday, 6 February 2016

Meeting a Holocaust Survivor

The Holocaust is an event in history that has always astounded me. But it is an atrocity that I could never truly comprehend. The facts and figures have never really 'said' anything to me because I cannot believe that those statistics are real - How can eleven million people be killed during the Holocaust? That number is incomprehensible.
There are only 10 Holocaust survivors left and I had the honour of meeting one - Ziggy Shipper.
This was through the Holocaust Educational Trust, where I was able to meet a Holocaust Survivor. They organised the Seminar to be held in Canary Wharf in order to ensure every participant has a good knowledge of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. All participants will eventually visit Poland and the Auschwitz Camp.

After some discussion of the Holocaust and the Nazi Regime during World War Two, Ziggy Shipper took to the stage and began to tell his story.
He emitted a warmth that immediately put everyone at ease as he began with a few funny remarks about his early childhood. But his story was one that was truly shocking and emotive; you could feel his pain and anguish through the words he spoke and this experience was completely different to reading a story out of a textbook. He spoke a story that was his. One that he lived and breathed through.

He spoke of his experience of living in a German ghetto, a term that I had never heard of before, in conditions that were indescribable. Death infiltrated through the ghetto and it seemed that life had become meaningless. Ziggy reiterated that he was extremely lucky as he was able to escape and run from a German truck that was en route to a death camp. He spoke of how he was lucky to have not been killed in a gas chamber when he was eventually placed into Auschwitz as a 15 year old boy. He also spoke of his luck as he was able to rediscover his mother after being separated from her since he was 4 years old.

Listening to Ziggy talk of his luck was shocking - an individual who was tortured from the Nazi rule, lost his father and grandfather to the Nazi's destructive regime, and lived in starvation and sadness was emphasising his luck. How could he be lucky? But the truth was, Ziggy was lucky compared to other Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals or Disabled citizens because he was able to escape death. He still encountered a life of pure misery but he escaped death and as I began to realise this, the reality of the Holocaust began to sink in.

Ziggy was lucky as he was saved by the British Army and was given shelter, food and safety. Although I was aware of the help Britain gave to Jews during World War Two, this also became a reality to me once Ziggy had explained his liberation. It was incredible to see the direct result of helping the Jews during a time where they were in desperate need of safety.
For a human being to encounter such horrific fears and difficulties, it shocked me to see Ziggy's defiant and positive attitude towards life; he spoke of the importance of loving everyone irrespective of their skin colour, religion, ethnicity or other differences. He said 'please do not hate anyone.'

I asked him during a Q&A section what his view was on the Migrant Crisis and he spoke with a strongly disappointed tone; he hated the way Migrants were being treated and he hated to see innocent children meet an early death. After hearing the brutal reality of Ziggy's story, I felt as if many people had not learnt valuable lessons from the Holocaust. The rise of Islamophobia, Xenophobia and racial attacks are all things that insight hatred and polarize people. Migrants are humans that deserve shelter, food and safety so where is the compassion for these people who are willing to risk their lives to escape their war-torn countries?

Ziggy Shipper taught me valuable lessons of the importance of acceptance and forgiveness. I am so glad to have had the pleasure of meeting an incredible human being. He spoke about his love of sharing his story to young people and how this has become something he adores to do. His defiance is truly inspiring and with lessons that are still to be learnt, it is so important to keep reiterating his and many other Holocaust survivors' stories.

Comment below with your views on the Holocaust. Can you believe the reality of the Holocaust? Do you think we have learnt from this horrendous time during history?

Follow my blog so you do not miss the post about my trip to Poland and Auschwitz - Birkenau.



  1. As a dane (whose country was seized during WWII) I know how awful it was. Not that I experienced it myself but my grandmother has told stories of back then. I visited a museum last year which portrayed 'the white busses' which was some danish doctors and nurses who used swedish white busses to go into germany to save some of our danish jews, and policemen. (post here )
    It was such a great exhibition and I learned a lot more about it. In Denmark we are learn a lot about WWII in gradeschool because it is a big part of our history. In the 9th grade (which is the last year in dk) we went to Czech republic and we stopped at theresienstadt (a kz camp). It was horrible to see it all, you could smell death. You could literally smell it. It was a 'cool' experience because we got to see it, but just awful when you think back to all the bad things that happened there :(

    Anyway, interesting post :) x


    1. Wow, that is incredible. Thank you for telling me about the 'white buses', I am going to research more about it. I find WW2 so interesting and shocking. I have visited Poland and the concentration camps and I had the same reaction. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!


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