On Tuesday 12 December Franklin College students with a passion for History heard testimony from Holocaust survivor, Janine Webber, as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
The testimony was followed by a question and answer session to enable students to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth. The visit is part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available to schools across the UK.
Staff and students listened attentively as Janine told the story of her early years during WW2. With moving personal accounts and experiences Janine brought a time before anyone in the room was born alive. The students commented afterwards that learning from Janine was so much more powerful and engaging than trying to gain understanding from books.
A group of our students will follow up the presentation with a trip to Auschwitz in January. Previous students have spoken passionately about what they personally gained from the trip and its value.
Franklin Principal Trevor Wray, said:
“It is a privilege for us to welcome Janine Webber to our school and her testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced. We are grateful to the Holocaust Educational Trust for co-ordinating the visit and we hope that by hearing Janine’s testimony, it will encourage our students to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and make a positive difference in their own lives.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust added:
“The Holocaust Educational Trust educates and engages students from across the UK, from all communities about the Holocaust and there can be no better way than through the first-hand testimony of a survivor. Janine’s story is one of tremendous courage during horrific circumstances and by hearing her testimony, students will have the opportunity to learn where prejudice and racism can ultimately lead.
“At the Trust, we impart the history of the Holocaust to young people, to ensure that we honour the memory of those whose lives were lost and take forward the lessons taught by those who survived.”
About Janine Webber
Janine was born in Lwow, Poland in 1932. Persecution of Jews in Lwow started very quickly after its German occupation in 1941. Janine and her family were forced to move to an area on the outside of town in preparation for the establishment of a ghetto. On hearing that there would be a Nazi raid one day, Janine, her mother, and her brother hid in a hole that had been dug under the wardrobe. The Nazis discovered the other members of her family and her father was shot and he and her brother were deported to a concentration camp.
Janine was moved to the ghetto and her uncle was able to find her a non-Jewish family outside of the ghetto who were prepared to hide her. She then went to live with another family with her brother but one day the Polish daughter of the family brought home an SS officer so she was forced to flee. Her brother was killed by the SS officer. She managed to find work as a shepherdess where she remained until the family she was living with learnt of her Jewish identity.
Janine’s aunt had given her the name and address of a Polish man, Edek who was the caretaker of a convent in Lwow and she went to him and hid in the attic of a building where she was reunited with her aunt, uncle and 12 other Jews in hiding. Janine’s aunt managed to obtain fake papers for her and she was taken to a convent.
6 months after the end of the war, Janine’s aunt returned for her. Together, they left for Paris. In 1956, Janine came to England to improve her English where she met and married her husband. Today, Janine still lives in London and regularly shares her testimony with schoolchildren.