September 15, 2014

HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, TOMI REICHENTAL

“Go home from this place and tell your children and your grandchildren that you have looked into the eyes and shaken hands with people who have survived the greatest cataclysm mankind unleashed on mankind. Tell them to tell their children and their children’s children, because these people will be mourned and spoken about and wept for 10,000 years. For if they aren’t we are all done for.” – Paddy Fitzgibbon, 1995

On Thursday 4th September the Ursuline Secondary School was privileged to welcome the holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental. Tomi was recently the subject of an RTE documentary ‘Close to Evil’. The 5th and 6th year history students preceded Tomi’s lecture with a short prayer service in honour of the 11 million victims of Nazism. Twelve candles were lit during the ceremony. There were six candles to represent the six million Jews who perished. The remaining six candles were in honour of the other categories of peoples also killed in this genocide – Romany gypsies and other nomadic peoples, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, political victims and Christians. Tomi was clearly very moved by the students’ prayers describing the ceremony as “touching”. He said it was something very special which he and his partner Joyce, who accompanied him on the trip, would not forget.

During his talk Tomi recalled in great detail his life as a young Jewish boy growing up in rural Slovakia and how his idyllic childhood was utterly destroyed by the ravages of World War 11. He lost 35 members of his family in concentration camps most of whom were gassed in Auschwitz. Miraculously Tomi and his immediate family, who were captured in 1944, managed to survive. He was transported to Bergen-Belsen along with his mother, brother, aunt and cousin. His father, who was arrested separately, escaped from a moving train destined for Auschwitz. He too survived the war. The family were happily reunited after liberation.

Tomi’s speech gave both students and staff an honest and compelling insight into what it was to be a young Jewish boy living through one of the worst atrocities of the twentieth century. Tomi has been retired for the last 9 years but now commits himself to teaching the younger generation about this horror. He does this valuable work in conjunction with the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland. He visits schools throughout the country two to three times a week speaking openly about his experiences. His voice is one of generosity and compassion bearing no bitterness despite what he endured.

After his captivating talk he spent lots of time with students and staff answering questions, signing his book ‘I was a boy in Belsen’ and standing for photographs. I’m sure he is currently on many a Facebook page in the Thurles area. We greatly appreciated his inspiring words and the selfless way both he and Joyce gave their time and attention to us all.

Tomi’s visit, his poignant memories, his charisma, charm and kind spirit will be remembered by us for some time to come.

LES MISERABLES – SCHOOL EDITION

The decision has been made on this year’s show and the auditions are reaching a finale. The choice is proving a very popular one with the prospective cast, as the familiar tunes from the show now haunt the corridors: “I Dreamed a Dream”, “Bring Him Home”, “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” and many many more.

Decisions re the casting are almost ready to be announced and then it will be full steam ahead to be ready for Opening Night on October 18.

TRANSITION YEARS

Transition Years have been kept very busy getting mini-companies up and running in addition to the many other variety of competitions in which they get involved. They had, however, time to take part in an Activity Day in Killaloe last Friday and they all had a wonderful day, blessed with beautiful weather.

 

Written By Nora Tuohy