NUI Galway Host Holocaust Memorial Event with Tomi Reichental and Ben Barkow

Jan 20 2020 Posted: 11:22 GMT

NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights and An Cumann Staire/History Society will host a Holocaust Memorial Event for 2020 with Tomi Reichental, a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and Ben Barkow, former Director of London's Wiener Library. The talk will take place on Wednesday, 29 January, at 6pm in Human Biology Building on campus. 

Tomi Reichental was born in 1935 in Piestany Slovakia. In 1944 at age nine, he was captured by the Gestapo in Bratislava and deported to Bergen Belsen concentration camp with his mother, grandmother, brother, aunt and cousin. When he was liberated in April 1945, he discovered that 35 members of his extended family had been murdered. His grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all died in the Holocaust.

Recounting the sights and smells at the concentration camp Tomi said: “Typhoid and diphtheria were the biggest killers, but people were dying of starvation and cold in their hundreds. First the bodies were removed and burned, but later they were just piling up in front of our barracks, there were piles of decomposing bodies. The soldiers who liberated Belsen in April 1945 said they could smell the stench for two miles before they reached the camp. In the camp I could not play like a normal child, we didn’t laugh and we didn’t cry. If you stepped out of line, you could be beaten up even beaten to death. I saw it all with my own eyes.”

According to Professor Ray Murphy of NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights: ‘Tomi’s message of tolerance and forgiveness is more important today than even. He reminds us of our common humanity and the need for human solidarity.”

Ben Barkow recently retired from London's Wiener Library - the world's oldest institution created for the documentation of the Holocaust - where he had worked for 32 years. He is chair of the Academic Advisory Board of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, which is creating Britain's national Holocaust memorial next to the houses of Parliament. He is also on the advisory board of the Imperial War Museum's planned new permanent Holocaust exhibition and is a trustee of a number of a number of Holocaust-related charities. 

The discussion at NUI Galway will be followed by a Q&A session. Admission is free but early arrival is advised.


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