The Manchester Grammar School has marked Holocaust Memorial Day by welcoming the survivor of eight Nazi concentration camps to the School….reports Asian Lite News
Chaim (Henry) Ferster MBE, 93, who has lived in Cheetham Hill since 1946, spoke to Year 9 boys at The Manchester Grammar School about his harrowing experiences, before giving another talk to members of the School’s Jewish Society.
He spoke emotionally about being separated from his family and being forced to endure the brutal and violent conditions of eight different death camps, and being so hungry that surviving his starvation was all he could focus on, to detriment of his faith at that time.
Chaim was forced to give up the violin when he was imprisoned by the Nazis, and it was not until ten months ago, well into his 90s, that he felt able to pick it up again, such were the horrific memories attached to it. However, in a poignant moment at the end of his talk, Chaim played the violin to an audience of boys and staff who listened with intent to his every word.
The talk was also of personal significance for Chaim as his grandson Arron attended MGS and left in 2005.
Last year, Chaim was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to Holocaust education.
Chaim kindly agreed to speak at MGS after Holocaust survivor Mayer Hersh MBE, of Prestwich, decided to retire from public speaking after more than a decade of talks at The Manchester Grammar School.
Chaim was 17 and living in Poland in 1939 when he was imprisoned in the first of eight concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Bikenau and Buchenwald, over the next six years.
He lost many family members during the Holocaust, before emigrating to England where he embarked on a successful business career.
He said: “I speak about the Holocaust because it must not be forgotten. Six million Jews perished and it must never be forgotten.”
Pupil Harrison Engler said: “We were very fortunate, and privileged, to have Chaim speak at MGS. Whether you have heard one survivor speak, or ten, hearing a survivor’s testimony is a unique, moving experience. We are the last generation able to hear an eye-witness testimony of one of the most important historical events of the last century and it was an honour to welcome such a distinguished man as Chaim.”
To also mark Holocaust Memorial Day, students at the School also staged an exhibition, which included a specially-commissioned portrait of Mayer Hersh MBE by photographer Nigel Maitland that will afterwards form part of MGS’s Archive.
The exhibition also included text and images from staff and boys who have visited concentration camps, a series of vases developed by Year 11 pupil Demetri Jenkins after visiting the sensory war section of the Manchester Art Gallery as part of his GCSE coursework, artwork by students inspired by the Holocaust and a display inviting staff, parents, boys and visitors to share their emotional response to the exhibition or their personal experiences by writing them on a luggage tag and attaching them to the display itself.
Year 12 student Charlie Pozniak also gave a moving and passionate assembly entitled Humanising the Holocaust to Year 11 students about his trip to Auschwitz, where he spoke about the need for everyone in society to take a stand against extremism.
Charlie said: “Going to Auschwitz was incredibly and emotionally moving, and I realised it could have been any one of us there. Once you put yourself in the shoes of the inmates, then you can really just imagine the horror. The message I took was that if you see someone is in need, or being wrongfully persecuted, being segregated or ostracised, then it is your job to help them, no matter who you are or what your preach.”
The full tribute to Mayer Hersh MBE can be read at http://mgslife.org/story/d9baa0bc80.