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History students were enthralled by Holocaust survivor, Joanna Millan’s testimony at Bangor Academy today

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History students were enthralled by Holocaust survivor, Joanna Millan’s testimony at Bangor Academy todayAs part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s  (HET) programme to enable students to better understand the true nature and scale of the Holocaust,

History pupils from Bangor Academy; Methody College, Belfast; St. Columbanus’ and Bangor Grammar were privileged to meet Joanna Millan who survived Theresienstadt Camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia.  

Joanna’s testimony traced the terrible events that saw her sent to the camp in 1943 aged only ten months until the death of her mother from TB in 1944 which left the young Joanna (then called Bela Rosenthal) orphaned and alone until the camp was liberated by the Russians in 1945. Bela was three when she and five other surviving orphans were bundled onto a military plane and sent to England. After some time in a series of children’s homes, Bela was adopted by a Jewish couple in London. Her name was changed to Joanna and she was told not to speak of her past.

Joanna spoke movingly about her thoughts on issues such as freedom, identity, genocide, human greed, forgiveness, the power of testimony and the responsibility she feels to continue her work with the HET. She answered many questions form the pupils who had been moved, angered, inspired and challenged to think about what they really know and understand about this historical atrocity.

Many students lingered at the end of the event keen to ask Joanna more about her life and her thoughts on her survival. Two GCSE History students had their own reactions.

Kacey Pollock said:

“This lady has had an extremely interesting life. Her story of survival against the odds was gripping and thought provoking.”

Alex Nolan said:

“I found it miraculous that someone so young could survive such an horrific event.”

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