Manchester, News, Politics, Review

Holocaust Survivor’s Story Moves Students at The Home Festival

0 793

By Ben Thompson

89-year-old Holocaust survivor Sam Gontarz was welcomed to Manchester Metropolitan University this week, to deliver a talk as part of The Home Festival.

Students and staff gathered to listen to Sam’s harrowing and awe-inspiring story, as he was joined by his son Robbie and Manchester Reform Synagogue’s Rabbi Silverman. Robbie read out his father’s emotional story, which took the audience on a journey through what is arguably Europe’s darkest period of history.

From the most deprived ghettos of Poland, Sam witnessed the senseless killings of Jewish people by Nazi soldiers and his father’s death from Typhus, leaving Sam and his family to fend for themselves. Upon being sent to Birkenau – a combined concentration/extermination camp within the network of Auschwitz – Sam was forcibly separated from his mother, sister and brother. All alone, he endured the agonising tribulations of life in various concentration camps across Europe.

At various points in the story, Robbie stressed that it was hope that had kept his father going. He said, “We kept hoping for tomorrow – the liberation.” That day of liberation finally came in 1945, when the American forces swept into Nazi Germany. From there, Sam was taken in by a relative in Manchester, where he settled permanently in 1947. Going on to marry and adopt two sons, Sam has since lived a long and fulfilled life.

As Robbie’s speech drew to a close, the floor was opened to students, invited to ask Sam questions about his experiences. Student Pia Morency asked to see Sam’s tattoo, to which Sam obliged by rolling up his sleeve to reveal the black numbers imprinted into his skin.

“It was really emotional,” Morency said. “It just really brought it home.”

When asked whether he thought the world is now better equipped to prevent another atrocity like the Holocaust, Robbie replied with optimism: “I’d like to think that on the whole, the world is more understanding and accepting”.

Robbie Gontarz stated that, to him, the message of his father’s story of survival is compassion. “The whole world needs to have eyes wide open and look out for other people,” he said.

Among the students in attendance, the reception was overwhelmingly positive. Many thanked their guests for coming in to speak and for the time spent answering questions after the talk was over.

Sam’s visit to Manchester Met was the latest in a series of talks organised by The Home Festival, who are seeking to expand students’ understanding of Manchester by welcoming diverse speakers and encouraging students to engage with Manchester’s rich and diverse culture and history.

For more information about upcoming events visit The Home Festival website.

About the author / 

Ben Thompson

Modern History student. Mostly writes about politics and social issues.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Album review: Seagoth – How to Stay Wide Awake

    Featured image: Seagoth “This album is dedicated to all of the people who can’t take a day off from themselves, to the people who have to face their greatest fears every single day – and to all the pain we feel, may we heal”. – Seagoth on How to Stay Wide Awake. While studying music…

  • Is This Thing On: Feminist theatre with a twist comes to Contact

    Featured image: So La Flair Theatre Ellie Campbell and Megan Keaveney graduated last year from Manchester Theatre School. The pair met at a house party in their first year, where Ellie was standing on a table singing her heart out to Florence and the Machine. Megan locked eyes with her and knew they would be…

  • Jungkook’s Top 5 Solo Tracks: An Exploration into the BTS Stars Musical Odyssey

    Featured image: PA As members of BTS embark on their military services, South Korean singer and songwriter Golden Maknae Jungkook is taking a venture into his new solo journey. Jungkook is celebrated for his outstanding stage presence and vocal ability to traverse different genres. With the discovery of his new upcoming album Golden, including 11…

  • Manchester Fashion Institute Fashion Spotlight: Showcasing MFI’s young emerging talent and innovative artists

    Featured image and photography: Nathan Cutler aAh! Magazine highlights the up-and-coming talent of Manchester Fashion Institute (MFI) students this spring, introducing the young artists and designers who are sharing unique, creative and innovative work. Our MFI Fashion Spotlight focuses on three second-year Fashion Art Direction students who are taking part in the university-led project titled…