Holocaust horror recounted at Leamington school

By Kevin Unitt Tuesday 23 April 2013 Updated: 26/04 08:08

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Buy photos » Susi Bechhofer with Campion students Ellie Sutton, Carli Ellard and Ryan Calder. 17.013.013.leam.nc2

THE HORROR of the Holocaust was brought home to pupils at Campion School when a survivor visited them on Monday (April 22).

Susi Bechhofer, now in her late 70s, was just a toddler when sent from Munich to Britain with her sister Lotte at the outset of the Second World War in 1939.

Their mother, a Jewish domestic servant, was deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz and died there in 1943.

The sisters never met their father, who was a member of the Nazi party and left Munich before they were born.

Taken to the home of devout Baptists in Cardiff, the girls were baptised and had their names changed.

Susi thus became known as Grace Mann and it was not until 1954 she discovered her real name when ordered to sit an exam under her true name of Bechhofer.

Since the 1970s, trying to find out more about her identity, she discovered her mother's fate and also that she had a living half sister plus many cousins, mainly in America, all of whom were Orthodox Jews.

Susi kept her Christian faith but changed her name in 1988 back to Susi Bechhofer and her story became the basis of the novel Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, while her story is also told in Rosa’s Child, co-written by Susi and Jeremy Josephs.

She now talks to groups about her experiences during and after the Holocaust and her visit to Campion was organised through the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).

She spoke to year nine students at teh Sydenham school, which was followed by a question and answer session.

A school spokesperson said: “It is a privilege for us to welcome Susi Bechhofer to our school and her testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the HET added: “We impart the history of the Holocaust to young people to ensure that we honour the memory of those whose lives were lost and take forward the lessons taught by those who survived.”

Visit www.het.org.uk for more information about the Holocaust Educational Trust.

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