A HOLOCAUST survivor gave a poignant talk about his life growing up in Nazi Germany at RSA Academy Arrow Vale this week.
John Fieldsend was born in 1931 in the city of Opava, two years before Adolf Hitler came to power and is alive today thanks to the kindertransport – the massive evacuation of children to countries like Britain to escape the Fascists.
Soon after John was born, his mother, a successful photographer, decided to move to Dresden in Germany so her two children could get a good education.
And John, who was awarded a British Empire Medal award last year, said he lived most of his life in Dresden ‘as a happy young boy’.
“My mum had a good job and my dad was involved in the fashion industry, we had money and we were very happy,” he said.
But, by 1937, Hitler was blaming all of Germany’s failings on the Jews.
“I remember playing in the sandpit with my brother at school,” the 88-year-old recalled.
“Suddenly the game stopped and the other lads, who had previously been our friends, started punching us, kicking us, spitting on us, calling us ‘dirty Jews’ and telling us they wouldn’t play with us anymore.
“At that age I don’t think I even knew what a Jew was, and I certainly didn’t feel any different.”
From there on it began to get much worse.
When Hitler arrived into Dresden for one of his infamous rallies John remembers his parents locking him away inside their family home, but the sound of Hitler screaming ‘get rid of the Jews’ could still be heard.
The family moved to Czechoslavakia but when the Nazis invaded his parents had no choice but send their children away.
“I remember a train coming to pick us up from Hanover station, a train which I now realise was one of Sir Nicholas Winton’s trains, which he used to help children escape.”
Eventually he and his brother made it to England and safety.
Later in life the two brothers began digging up their family history, only to find their mother, father and grandparents were all murdered in Nazi concentration camps.
Speaking at RSA Academy on Wednesday, John urged the youngsters to look after this world ‘better than my generation did’.
He told them: “I have met with ex-Nazis and I have learned to let go of my anger and grudges…but now it is your responsibility to be custodians.”
The visit at the school was organised through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available to schools across the UK.
Ian Mellor, headteacher, said: “It was a privilege for us to welcome John to our school and his testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced.”