School News

Judith Altmann All-School Speaker Event

By Clara Prander

Image via Tyler Sizemore

On Thursday evening the first of April the school had the privilege to listen to Holocaust survivor Judith Atlmann. She told us her story which caught everyone’s attention. Despite some technical difficulties in the beginning, it was still a very successful talk. 

Mrs. Altmann is from Czechoslovakia and was only thirteen years old when the Nazis invaded the country. She remembers being very confused when she no longer could go to school and do the things she normally would do. She told us how it was living in a ghetto in Hungary and about the new rules she had to get used to. 

After a couple of weeks her and her family were shoved, among others, into trains. There were SS men everywhere, packing about 70-85 people into a train car. All night they had to stand there until it finally started moving. When arriving at the camp she was welcomed by a woman saying “this is hell”. She had arrived at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Doctor Mengele was awaiting on examining them. He’s known as the “Angel of Death ” and was the doctor at Auschwitz deciding who was being sent to the gas chambers or not. Since she wasn’t old he fortunately put her into the working group, something that saved her life. 

She told us about how the conditions in the camp were, how little food they got and how cruel the officers were. Every morning they had to stand outside in rows while selections about who would be sent to their death were being held. Sometimes the officers took extra long on deciding so that the inmates would have to stand outside for hours while freezing. 

When a couple of more weeks had passed she was being moved to Bergen-Belsen, another labor camp. There she got a job inside, something that may have saved her life. She knew that as soon as she couldn’t work anymore they would take her to the gas chambers. One day she broke her arm, something that she thought was going to be her death. When the SS men came to get her, her supervisor told them that she was necessary for the work since she was the only one that spoke multiple languages and therefore could translate. This woman saved her life. 

Mrs. Altmann had many more stories that she told us. Another memorable thing being her participating in the Death March. How she had been marching and the people around her had died when walking.  She told us about the horrible things she had seen, but despaired us of the details. When she in the end got freed, she couldn’t believe it was happening. She thought it was too good to be true. Although many of her relatives were no longer alive, she managed to travel to the US and reunite with her brother. 

At the end of her talk Mrs. Altmann left us with some very inspirational advice; “Learn all you can and help all you can, because knowledge of language was the reason that I was able to be saved”. It’s such an important topic and having someone that experienced it first hand tell it to the school was really interesting. It was an honor to have Mrs. Altmann as a speaker to tell us her story. 

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