It was with great pleasure that students in Years 10 to 13 and the History department welcomed to the Academy Mrs Janine Webber on 8 November. Janine is one of a few surviving Holocaust survivors, working for the Holocaust Educational Trust, who are invited to visit schools and recount to students their experiences of one of the most horrific moments in human history. It was a fantastic experience for the students to meet Janine who kept them enraptured with her testimony of life in Poland during the Nazi occupation and the terrible losses she suffered as a result of life in the ghettos and hiding around the city of Lwow. She brought with her an amazing message about the importance of toleration and many students left her talk amazed at her experiences and fortitude in dealing with them. One Year 11 student even stopped me in the Hall later to tell me how the experience had been one of the ‘most enlightening and special of his life'.
Janine was born into a Jewish family in Lwow in 1932, a very happy little girl from a large and caring family. However, her life changed irrevocably in June 1941 when the Nazis took over Poland. Janine and her family were rounded up and forced to live in a ghetto on the edge of the town she was born in. Conditions were awful, food scarce and disease rife. Her mother succumbed to typhus and her father was shot by the SS attempting to hide as the ghettos were cleared into concentration camps. Janine escaped with her younger brother and Aunt and went into hiding in a variety of different homes, never able to reveal her true identity. The hatred against Jews was so bad that one of the families brought a Gestapo officer home who shot her younger brother. But thankfully, Janine was reunited with her Aunt and young cousin after the war and went on to live in France and England where she met her husband and raised two sons to be tolerant of all people. Janine’s story was a powerful reminder of the dangers of intolerance and we were very lucky to have met her as 95% of the people forced in the Polish ghettos and later camps were never able to tell their story. In total, it is estimated that the Nazis killed over six million Jewish peoples of Europe and nearly the same number of other people they also considered inferior.
After Janine’s talk, several students stayed to speak to her and she said that the students and staff she had met at Attleborough Academy were among the nicest she had ever had the fortune to meet – ‘so kind and thoughtful it was a real pleasure to visit you.' In true Attleborough Academy style, the students were spectacular in their show of gratitude to Janine for travelling to see us on a cold November day and Janine has kindly donated a new book to our Academy Library containing a number of stories from child survivors of the Holocaust, so that all students can have the opportunity to find out more about this event and the courage of the people who survived it. We truly hope that Janine can find time to visit us again soon.