A Holocaust survivor encouraged students ‘not to hate’ in an inspiring talk at St Paul’s Catholic college last Monday.
Dorit Oliver-Wolff, 79, was twice picked up by Nazi soldiers in Budapest, and held at the age of seven. She was separated from her mother for eight weeks, but eventually escaped with her mother’s help.
In the talk she encouraged students to appreciate the atrocities of the Holocaust for what they are.
“Six million people. If you close your eyes and imagine going outside this building, to Burgess Hill, to Haywards Heath. There’s nobody there. They’re all gone, most of Sussex would be. All of those people have been killed,” she said.
After the talk she told the Middy: “I find students amazing, they want to learn. I try to make them understand that life isn’t just a bed of roses, and not to take life for granted.
“I want to make people remember, to talk about it.
You can’t punish the children for what their fathers did. I can’t help but hate, but try not to hate.Dorit Oliver-Wolff
“I didn’t want to remember for years, I pushed it back, but something would trigger it. A smell, a sound, a memory, it would all come flushing back, and I’m a frightened little girl holding onto her pillow again. You grow old but you don’t grow up.”
She said students often ask her what it is ‘to be terrified’, and to recall horrendous things she has witnessed.
Dorit continued: “I’ve seen a live horse being chopped to pieces by 20 people. I was very little, they hadn’t eaten meat for six months. I heard this terrible noise. It’s either that or your children starve.”
St Paul’s is Dorit’s ‘favourite school’, and despite the morbid topic, she was full of jokes for students. She told them that of the many languages she speaks, swearing is one of her most fluent.
“I can swear continuously for three to five minutes without repeating the same word,” she explained.
But her talk was full of thought provoking messages: “I can never understand why any one person would want to kill another. If you have an argument, if they stand on your foot I can understand getting angry, but if they didn’t stand on your foot leave them alone,” she said.
During a question and answer session, one St Paul’s teacher asked how students can transfer lessons learnt to their lives.
“People think they live in a more tolerant society,” she said.
“But the Holocaust happened, it’s happening now every day, even if they don’t call it the Holocaust. Even if it is so many miles away.”
Dorit is releasing a book, From Yellow Star to Pop Star, in May.
She continued: “I want you to have everything I never had. I wonder sometimes how people can go to the toilet without their, what do you call it? Ah yes, mobile phone. I call it plastic surgery. Try to think about others around you.”
Students asked of her opinions on Germans after the Holocaust.
“My step father was a German soldier, and I didn’t manage to kill him,” she joked.
“I met a lot of them, I was a pinup girl.
“I thought ‘his grandfather could have been the one that killed my grandfather’, but you can’t punish the children for what their fathers did. I can’t help but hate, but try not to hate.”
Dorit went on to have a successful career as a singer.
St Paul’s student Georgia Fuller, 17, said she found the talk ‘really interesting’.
“Her viewpoint on life is amazing. She can take the good from what happened, that’s not what many other people would take from it.
“She’s so understanding. She’s open minded.”