The 27th January 2020 marked the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. To mark the occasion, the College has planned a series of events for students and the wider community to take part in for greater knowledge, understanding and reflection.
Most notably, on Monday 3rd February, Heathfield Community College hosted an event that was conceived by East Sussex SACRE (the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) last year and sponsored by East Sussex County Council.
11 secondary schools were invited to Heathfield Community College to take part in the Stand Together Event, listening to Holocaust survivor Dorit Oliver- Wolff speak about her experiences and take part in RE and History workshops that explored the themes and lessons of the Holocaust.
Dorit Oliver- Wolff was recently awarded the BEM in the 2020 New Year’s honours list and students had the chance to ask questions of her and eminent musician Dr Shelley Katz, who is the son of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and a lay leader in Jewish congregations.
The event culminated in a moment of reflection, with a moving musical tribute performed by St Richard’s Catholic College choir. As the choir sang, students from all schools reverently pressed a fingerprint into clay stones which will subsequently be fired and placed in each of the schools act as a commemorative item of the day when East Sussex schools Stood Together.
Emma Smith, Head of History at Heathfield Community College says:
‘We are delighted to have hosted the event and feel privileged to have welcomed Dorit and Dr Katz to the College on 3rd Feb to share their experiences with students from across East Sussex. The lessons of the Holocaust are just as relevant today as they were when the world first heard about the atrocities that took place in the Second World War and it is so important to give students those messages from those who witnessed them first hand as it is the personal stories that help to students to connect better with the past.”
Cllr Galley from SACRE responded:
“Thank you and your staff for your help and support in running yesterday’s RE conference at Heathfield. I thought it was a great success. Your Head of History, and colleagues were superb. I’m hoping to do another Conference next year.”
Students from Heathfield who took part in the event found it moving and poignant. Year 9 student Adam Wysocki commented:
“I enjoyed Dorit’s speech and the description of her life. It was very inspiring and very educational. I learnt a lot about life for Jews after the Holocaust and the Second World War. This day personally meant a lot to me since my entire family is Polish and several of my relatives were killed by the Nazis.”
Events like this mean a lot to the whole community. A parent of a participating student commented:
“I do want to thank the school for involving my daughter in today’s activities. I think it’s so incredibly important. I can’t wait to talk to her about it.”
Dorit will also be visiting the College on the evening of Wednesday 26th February for a free event open to all students, parents and members of the local community where they will also have the opportunity to meet her and listen to her story.