To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2022, Eton was honoured to host Holocaust survivor Steven Frank, who spoke to pupils, staff and members of the community in the Jafar Hall.
Born in Amsterdam in 1935, Steven recalled that he was only five when he first had to come to terms with the concept that his religion made him different from those around him. As the situation in the Netherlands worsened, he explained he ‘couldn’t understand what he had done wrong.’ Forced by the German authorities to attend a Jewish school, Steven spoke about the sad reality of losing his friends, revealing that mates would ‘just disappear’ at random.
Steven spoke about the profound love and respect he had for his father, Leonard Frank, a man who worked tirelessly to help the disadvantaged in the local community. To the packed audience, Steven revealed the devastating fact that one day in early 1943, his father was taken captive by the Nazi soldiers, never to be seen again.
Over the course of the war, Steven was incarcerated in three different concentration camps, all designed to make life a living hell. Despite witnessing death, brutality and injustice, Steven spoke about how the beauty of nature provided some relief from the ugly reality. He talked fondly of the time when a fellow inmate gave him the responsibility of looking after his tomato plants.
Steven Frank, a man with a glass half full attitude, spoke with great warmth about those who gave him strength and helped him survive. One of these was his mother, who managed to secure a job in the laundry whilst they were in Theresienstadt (a camp in Czechoslovakia), in order to receive extra rations for her children.
From living alongside 44,000 others in a camp designed for 8000, to witnessing family and friends being killed, Steven provided a unique and personal insight into the Holocaust and the destruction it caused.
This vital legacy of the survivors will live on through the ambassador programmes that Holocaust educational charities run, such as The National Holocaust Centre and Museum, and many pupils expressed interest in working with these after hearing Mr Frank’s talk.
I can speak on behalf of the almost 400 people who attended, in saying that Steven’s story touched our hearts, encouraged us to remember and allowed us to be forever thankful for the freedoms we now enjoy.