On Thursday 26 January, Ivan Shaw MBE – a Holocaust survivor – came to speak at Eton College. This was part of a series of Holocaust commemorations at Eton, which also included a Holocaust Memorial Symposium the previous evening. During his talk, Ivan shared his first-hand experience of the Holocaust.
Ivan was born in 1939 in the city of Novi Sad, then part of Yugoslavia but now in Serbia. In 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers and Novi Sad was annexed by Hungary. Following the annexation, Ivan, being of Jewish heritage, was forced to wear the Star of David whenever he went outside.
In 1944, Germany invaded Hungary after discovering their ally had secretly been negotiating with the Allied powers. As soon as Germany took over the country, government persecution against the Jewish minority increased rapidly. Both of Ivan’s parents were sent to concentration camps: he would never see them again.
Ivan himself was taken in by one of his aunts, but was soon arrested and taken to a prison cell by the Gestapo. He was supposed to be transported to Auschwitz but whilst walking to the train station that would have taken him to the concentration camp and almost certain death, another of his aunts rescued him. He stayed with her in hiding for eight months until the end of the war and, in 1947, he was sent to live with relatives in England in the hope that he would have a better life there.
Ivan’s talk covered not only his moving life story, but also addressed the importance of standing up to hatred and antisemitism to stop such atrocities from repeating themselves. As one of an ever-diminishing number of survivors of the Holocaust, Ivan emphasised the importance of continuing to talk about this genocide to ensure that it – and its lessons – are never forgotten.
As we remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, on Friday 27 January, Holocaust Memorial Day, we will also reflect on Ivan’s lecture and the importance of his closing message.
Our series also included a Holocaust Memorial Day Symposium on Wednesday 25 January. In a candlelit room, boys and staff gathered to reflect upon and remember the tragic events of the Holocaust. A series of very powerful poems and speeches were delivered by both students and teachers throughout the evening, followed by a minute of silence to remember the 6 million individuals who lost their lives under the oppressive Nazi regime. As the evening drew to a close, an underlying message was understood by all those present: this can never happen again.