History’s darkest hour: boys hear Holocaust survivors
August 15, 2016
August 15, 2016
A married couple who both survived the Nazi Holocaust as children spoke to the whole of Year 9 when they visited the School.
Peter and Marianne Summerfield’s talk complemented the boys’ Year 9 History syllabus, which covers the World War II period and includes a module on the Holocaust entitled Genocide and Intolerance.
The Headmaster, Neil Enright, said: “It was our pleasure and privilege to welcome Mr and Mrs Summerfield to the School.
“We cleared the afternoon timetable in order to devote plenty of time to their talk and to give the boys time to reflect on the very important lessons that it conveyed. I know that the boys greatly appreciated the visit and it is my hope that they will now play their part in ensuring that the Holocaust is never forgotten.”
Mr Summerfield was born as an identical twin in Berlin in Germany in 1933, four months after Hitler came to power. By the time of his birth, his parents were already suffering from the restrictions placed on Jewish people by the Nazis and, from 1936, they tried to find a country which would accept the family as immigrants. Eventually they received permission to leave Germany after a distant uncle said he would be a guarantor with financial responsibility for the family.
In August 1939 the family was finally able to escape Berlin on the last train before war was declared. However, all their possessions and even their luggage were stolen, so they arrived in England in that month penniless and with only their hand-luggage.
Mr Summerfield vividly remembers his early experiences of Berlin and of this eventful journey, which he recounted to the boys. His grandmother and uncle were later murdered by the Nazi regime.
After the war, he and his brother completed two years’ National Service in the British Army, including time on active service in Egypt. He then went on to study Law at Oxford and qualified as a solicitor.
Mrs Summerfield was born in Breslau, Germany, which is now Wroclaw in Poland, in July 1938.
Her parents were both dismissed from their careers in the legal profession because they were Jewish.
On Kristallnacht (9th November 1938), her father was arrested, along with thousands of other Jewish men, and sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Her mother managed to persuade an official at the Gestapo Headquarters to find a missing letter which gave permission for him to live and work in England. After receiving this letter, her mother went straight to the camp with it and her father was released and immediately travelled to London. Mrs Summerfield and her mother were able to join him in February 1939.
After finishing school, Mrs Summerfield became a teacher and then went on to open a chain of nursery schools. She later opened a school teaching English as a foreign language.
The couple have been married for more than 40 years; they have five children and 12 grandchildren.