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Understanding the Holocaust � the story of prisoner 8230

Published Thursday 14th of March 2013 09:24:31 AM

The important lessons from history became intensely personal for Bishop�s Stortford College pupils as they listened to the heart breaking story of Leslie Kleinman � one of the few Holocaust survivors alive today.

Sixth Former Melissa Craig wrote an account of what she learnt and the impact it had on her:

From the moment he set foot in the crammed History classroom filled with Year 11 pupils of Bishop�s Stortford College, wife at his side, he had us all utterly transfixed. Even the most prone to a wandering mind fell silent; and this was simply an introduction to a rather ordinary looking Leslie Kleinman - prisoner 8230 was yet to be unveiled.

The closest possible insight into what this man had endured was a small ring he wore upon his finger, bearing the Star of David, which to most would bear no real significance. Yet astonishingly, what this symbol represented was the sole reason for the unnecessary deaths of six million people, and his presence in our classroom.

Leslie Kleinman was only 14 years old when he arrived at the notorious death and work camp, Auschwitz, in 1944, having already suffered the consequences of being a Romanian Jew during Romania�s annexation by Hungary in 1939, and being told he would never see his father again. Barely an adolescent, Leslie watched helplessly as his three brothers, four sisters and mother were separated and taken to the gas chambers. Meanwhile, he was transported to Auschwitz I, where he was forced to work for eight hours a day on only four hundred calories, return to a bed that he shared with seven others, and submit all his personal possessions, from his Bible to his name.

We were consumed by his story from stepping onto the crammed, fetid train heading for Poland, to hearing the familiar cry of �shalom!� at his liberation by an American Jew on the 23rd April 1945, and then finally, his emotional description of revisiting the freight train over sixty years later, that transported him and his family to Auschwitz in 1944, that had us all fighting back tears.

In the short space of an hour we learned the philosophies and attitudes which only survivors of the Holocaust can teach, and which undoubtedly we will all now apply to our own lives: the goal Leslie Kleinman told us he has in mind when he tours the country, teaching young children to �study, learn and be good people.� But for me, the lesson that stood out the most was, without a doubt, to be grateful for the childhoods that we have, that unfortunately so many, including Leslie, were robbed of the opportunity to experience.
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