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Holocaust Survivor Visits Year 9 Students

10 February 2016  |  Jill Lundberg  |  Posted in:

Ninety-year-old Harry Bibring recounted a moving and poignant story of bigotry, violence and injustice against the Jewish people as he grew up in Vienna during the Second World War. He told Year 9 students how the population of 175,000 Jews in the city in 1925, when he was born, was reduced to just 300 in hiding as Hitler’s fascists tightened their grip. In the 1930s he enjoyed an idyllic lifestyle as the son of the owner a popular menswear store. He attended a good school, enjoyed swimming and ice-skating and life with his father Michael, mother Lea and sister Gertie. “Then in 1938 Hitler annexed Austria into the Third Reich,” he told students. “I knocked into someone at the ice rink and he called me a ‘dirty Jew’, but I’d had a bath that morning so I just carried on. I remember watching a Nazi parade pass our flat; the SA, SS, Gestapo and neo-militias. It was very impressive. I tried to tell my non-Jewish friends the next day and they just turned their backs and walked away – that really took the wind out of my sails.” Mr Bibring was then turned away from the skating rink, the swimming pool, the cinema because he was Jewish. He was also expelled from his grammar school and sent to another where he and other Jewish children had to sit on the floor while the rest of the class had chairs. When a Jewish dissident shot dead a high-ranking diplomat in Paris, Hilter gave his fascists free-rein to attack the Jewish people. Synagogues were burnt, Jewish businesses defaced, people attacked and killed in the street. “It was the most outrageous instruction ever witnessed to come out of any official Government,” Mr Bibring said. Things became so bad that his parents managed to get him and his sister on kindertransport, which took Jewish children to safety in England. Mr Bibring never saw his parents again as his father died of a heart attack after being detained by the authorities and his mother perished in a concentration camp. Religious studies teacher Kate Craven, who organised the talk, said: “We have been asking questions about how people manage to keep their faith in the light of such suffering. It has been an absolute privilege to hear Mr Bibring’s personal experiences of such a dark period of history and I am sure our students will have long and lasting memories of his visit.” Beth Elliott said: “I had never thought about the Holocaust in such a deep and personal way.”   Chloe McDowell added: “I found it interesting and emotional. It just shows what good lives we have and that we should treasure them. It meant so much more hearing his story first-hand and thinking about all that he went through.”   Ellie Briss said: “Meeting Harry was just amazing. I loved the opportunity and I am incredibly grateful to him for sharing his story. I will always remember that there is only one race. The human race.”

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