UCD Philosophy Society in conjunction with German Soc hosted Tomi Reichental, Holocaust survivor of the notorious Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen on Tuesday March 31st.
In his second trip to UCD Mr. Reichental spoke for two hours to students about his horrific experiences at the hands of the SS in his native Slovakia. Theatre O was full to capacity as students received the full, harrowing details of life in a concentration camp presented by Mr. Reichental in an honest, steady manner, who paused only once when detailing the loss of his grandmother.
Thirty five members of Mr. Reichental’s family perished in this camp to starvation, hard labour, and disease caused by overcrowding when he was just nine years of age.
Mr. Reichental also detailed his early life and oppression as a Jewish citizen in Slovakia, his capture by SS officers when his family’s identification papers were proved to be fraudulent, and the ordeals of his family’s trip to the concentration camp.
After keeping his story to himself for over fifty five years, Mr. Reichental finally opened up in his book “I was a Boy in Belsen” and the beginning of his international talks. Since then, he has also made a film entitled “Til the Tenth Generation”, as well as a documentary in association with RTÉ named “Close to Evil” in which he attempts to track down one of his former jailers in Germany. He has been honoured by several countries, including an Irish Person of the Year award in 2014.
This was just one of a series of talks that Mr. Reichental has been delivering for over twelve years in various countries including Ireland, where he has been a resident for fifty years, Slovakia, and the United States. Schools and educational institutes of all levels are usually the focus of these talks which Mr. Reichental claims he undertakes to promote awareness of the holocaust, as well as discredit any holocaust deniers around the world.
A brief Q&A session was chaired by Philosophy Society auditor Daniel Clifford after the talk, where Mr. Reichental detailed how he was reunited with his father, who had escaped from a cattle train to Auschwitz and joined the partisan resistance against Germany until the end of the Second World War.
The talk was concluded by a short book signing, and a final comment about the importance of tolerance and caring. A video of the lecture will also be made available over the coming weeks for the public to access online.