Over 250 students from Presentation Secondary School, Milltown came face to face with a witness to one of the greatest human catastrophes of the twentieth century. The community hall was filled to capacity while students heard Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor give a harrowing account of his time in a Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen
In 1944, aged just 9, Tomi and most of his family were taken to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
The students listened in sheer silence as he told them of the inhuman conditions he witnessed. He spoke of seeing literally hundreds around him fall ill and die from typhus, diphtheria, tuberculosis or just starvation. He went on to recount the times he and other children played ‘hide and seek’ amongst hundreds of corpses, not remotely bothered by the stench. Worst of all was seeing his grandmother’s body heaped on a cart, on the way to the crematorium. In all, Tomi lost 35 of his close family members in the Holocaust.
Fortunately he witnessed the liberation of Bergen-Belsen camp by the Allied forces in April 1945. In 1960 Tomi came to Ireland where he worked for many years as an engineer.
For fifty-five years Tomi did not speak of his wartime experiences ‘not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t’. To say that Tomi’s words had a profound effect on all who heard it is surely an understatement.