Kenilworth School students learn life lessons from Holocaust survivor

Retired doctor Martin Stern MBE speaks students from Kenilworth School
Retired doctor Martin Stern MBE speaks students from Kenilworth School

Kenilworth School students have been learning important lessons on tolerance and history from a man who survived life in a concentration camp when he was a small child.

And they have since been reflecting on the 'preciousness' of life and how to treat their fellow human beings.

Retired doctor Martin Stern MBE

Retired doctor Martin Stern MBE

Retired doctor Martin Stern MBE was just a baby when war broke out in 1939 and living in the Netherlands with his parents who had fled Nazi Germany when Hitler rose to power.

His father went into hiding, was captured and, after a period at Auschwitz-Birkenau, died in Buchenwald.

Martin too was caught by the Nazis as a six-year-old schoolboy, despite the attempts of his teacher to protect him from arrest.

He and his three-year-old sister, taken in by kind friends when his mother died shortly after giving birth, made the terrifying trip in trains and cattle trucks to a variety of camps, encountering horror, deprivation, squalor, hunger, thirst, disease and always surrounded by death.

But they also saw incredible kindness from a Christian woman incarcerated because she was married to a Jew, who risked her own safety to give them extra food rations.

Martin and his sister were liberated in 1945 by the Russians and spent the following decade back in the Netherlands before joining their aunt and grandmother, who had also survived the camps, in Manchester in the 1950s.

Despite the appalling traumas he’d suffered as a child, Martin went on the study medicine at Oxford University, married and had three children. His sister became a psychologist.

Students found the encounter moving and inspirational.

Kenilworth School head Hayden Abbott said: “Martin’s visit brought home to our young people the reality of what happens in an intolerant society, when one sector is made a scapegoat, of the inhumanity engendered when a group of people are dehumanised and seen as ‘other’.

“His aim is to ensure new generations learn of the appalling atrocities that happen when hate spirals out of control, when lies are shared and believed, when charismatic leaders are given free rein to make laws unchecked. He wants young people to understand the life protecting value of tolerance, of compassion and of mutual respect.”