A HOLOCAUST survivor’s powerful tale of endurance through the horrors of the Second World War stunned students at The Angmering School on Friday (March 27).
The sports hall, normally a place of energy and sound, was silent and still as Dorit Oliver-Wolff told children of her life as a Jewish girl on the run from Nazis in Hungary.
“I weighed three stone, had pneumonia and pleurisy, had lost my hair, and was too weak to stand up.”
The harrowing description of Jewish persecution resonated with the Year-nine students who listened intently to the message behind it.
“If there is someone being mistreated because of their religion or appearance, you don’t have to join in,” said Dorit. “You have a choice.”
The students learnt how her father had died, aged 30, after being worked to exhaustion in a concentration camp and how hiding from the Nazis became a way of life for Dorit and her mother.
“I didn’t know how to be a child, it wasn’t until I had grandchildren that I even learnt nursery rhymes,” explained Dorit.
Born in Yugolslavia, but living in Hungary, Dorit was captured twice by the SS and nearly suffered the same fate as so many others.
In one anecdote, Dorit described how, at just seven-years-old, she was captured and on the cusp of being sent to a concentration camp before her mother convinced a security guard to help plot her escape.
After hiding in a coal cupboard, she was smuggled out of the building in a dirty laundry basket, narrowly escaping the prodding bayonet of a Nazi soldier.
Speaking of when the war in Europe ended, Dorit explained her difficulties did not cease there and said life for her was far from easy.
“I was nine years old and was given six months to live,” she recounted. “I weighed three stone, had pneumonia and pleurisy, had lost my hair, and was too weak to stand up.”
But Dorit overcame the odds to become a successful jazz singer, and ironically found her biggest fan base in Germany, becoming a pin-up girl for soldiers across the country.
“I always believed I would be a singer, I just didn’t realise it would be Germany which made me a star.”
Her speech was followed by an hour-long question and answer session in which Dorit was inundated by queries from the scores of captivated students.
Year-nine Dilaxiha Rajen-dran said: “When I asked her the question about if you could re-do something in your life, and she said no, it was very inspiring.”
Matt Davis said: “We feel really privileged.
“She has taught me not to take anything for granted and that when you think there is only bad there is always hope.”
Teacher Anna Ward described the importance of such talks to coincide with history lessons.
“It’s such an opportunity for students to understand the horrors of the holocaust from someone like Dorit who was so personally affected.”
Dorit is using her experiences to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust aren’t repeated.
“I have this urge to speak to young people because I feel I can make a difference, they should hear the truth.
“History has a habit of repeating itself, but it is people who write history, therefore it is also people who have the power to re-write it.”
Dorit’s memoirs are due to be released in May.
For more details, see here.