QE boys learn first-hand of the horrors of the Holocaust

More than 200 boys and members of staff seized the opportunity to hear Holocaust survivor Jack Kagan speak about his experiences in the Second World War. The event was organised by the School’s Jewish Society – known as J-Soc.

Mr Kagan was only 12 years old in 1941 when the Nazis occupied his home town of Novogrodok in present-day Belarus and sent him and his family to a ghetto. He described how he hid himself under a pile of clothes on his bunk and put his fingers in his ears when his mother and sister were taken with a group of others across the road at the camp to be shot.

His father was moved to a different camp, where he was eventually killed in 1944 while trying to escape. Mr Kagan himself managed to escape in 1943 from the camp where he was being held and joined a group of partisans led by the Bielski brothers: more than 1,000 Jewish people survived by hiding in the forest.

Mr Kagan explained why he could not stay in his homeland after the war: “The nightmare was over, but as we headed back to our home town of Novogrodok we knew what we would find there. The town was destroyed; everyone I had known before the war was gone. There was no joy left in that place. I came to England in 1947, met and married my wife, with whom I had three children. I now have 10 grandchildren. But I can never forget the past.”

Welcoming him at the lunchtime talk, the Headmaster said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome a Holocaust survivor to Queen Elizabeth’s School. Jack Kagan’s address to the boys and staff reinforces those values which bind us and protect us in our common humanity from destructive forces of social discrimination and polarisation. I am most grateful to Jack for being with us to convey his important message.”

Afterwards J-Soc Co-Chairs, Scott Grossman and Alex Davis, both of Year 11, reflected on the event. “It was a huge success; pupils of all ages and backgrounds came to hear Jack Kagan’s gripping story,” said Scott. “It was both enlightening and informative, and taught everyone more about what the war was like for people on both an individual and on a greater scale.”

Alex added: “QE was honoured to have the opportunity to host Jack Kagan. His story was truly thought-provoking and he left all those who heard him with a deep understanding of the Holocaust. We would like to thank Jack for taking the time to speak to us and also to UJIA JAMS [United Jewish Israel Appeal Jewish Activities in Mainstream School] and the LJCC [London Jewish Cultural Centre] for their support and help in making the event extremely special and successful for us all.”