Published on: 23 May 2014

History students had an opportunity to hear Holocaust survivor Hetty Verolme’s personal experience of World War Two thanks to the School’s Centre for Ethics recently. Hetty is the author of the true story of The Children’s House of Belsen.

Humanities Teacher Jasmine Head said Years 9 to 11 students listened intently to Hetty, who was just a young girl living with her family in Amsterdam at the start of the war. Her family lived in fear of the Nazis as round-ups of the local Jewish community began. “She described the terror of the unknown as people she knew disappeared without a trace,” Ms Head said.

Hetty ensured the boys understood the wider context of her experiences by explaining what was happening across Europe at the time. Eventually, her whole family was targeted and transported to Belsen concentration camp. “She described the horrible conditions on the trains, the selection processes at the camps as well as emphasising the treatment of Jews as a ‘resource’ rather than human beings,” she said.

Year 11 Modern History student Alex Rose said: “Hetty’s visit to Christ Church was a truly inspiring and moving experience. The stories she shared with us about the Holocaust and her experiences with anti-Semitism in Holland were all very confronting, containing messages that all the boys could reflect on. Her experiences, although particularly saddening, were also very interesting for each individual student studying the time period. Her visit helped add a lot of extra understanding to the content we have been learning in class.”

Hetty emphasised the importance of educating each generation about the atrocities of the past. “Through her story, she has ensured our boys understand the events of the Holocaust as the experiences of individuals, rather than faceless numbers in a textbook,” Ms Head said.