Holocaust Memorial Day: Survivor Hannah Lewis honours victims during trip to The Bishop's Stortford High School
A victim of Nazi persecution returned to The Bishop's Stortford High School as students prepared to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday (January 27).
Over the years, 82-year-old Polish-born Hannah Lewis – who during the Second World War saw her mother murdered by a Nazi killing squad – has become a regular visitor to the London Road secondary. After her latest visit, pupils took part in special lessons to remember victims of the Holocaust.
Simon Etheridge, the school's subject leader for religious studies and citizenship, said: "Hannah is a wonderful and inspirational person who is everything a human being should be. She talks of living alongside the pain she has experienced in her life. Hannah continues to be such an inspirational, positive, compassionate and empowering person."
Hannah was born in June 1937 in the small market town of Wlodawa, Poland, on the border with Ukraine. The only child of Adam and Haya, her family were prosperous and her life was comfortable until war broke out.
In 1942 the Nazis began taking the Jews of Wlodawa to either nearby Sobibór extermination camp or various labour camps. In 1943 Hannah and her family were rounded up and forcibly marched to Adampol.
Her father managed to escape and joined the partisans while Hannah and her mother remained in the labour camp.
In the last winter of the occupation, Hannah fell ill with a high temperature and suspected typhoid, so her mother would not leave when her father came to warn them about a Nazi killing squad.
The next morning, Haya was shot and Hannah remained in the camp until she was liberated by a Soviet soldier. After the war, she was reunited with her father and came to live in London in 1949.
Now a mother of four with eight grandchildren, she was unable to talk about her ordeal for many years but now shares her experiences so that future generations understand the impact of the Holocaust.
More by this authorSinead Corr