Ordinary people are sometimes catapulted into extraordinary circumstances. So it was for Holocaust survivor, Janine Webber, who this week returned to Taunton School to share her experiences of the Second World War and the Nazis’ attempted elimination of all of Europe’s Jews.
A young girl of nine when the Germans entered her native Lvov in 1941, Janine witnessed some terrible atrocities and the deaths of a number of her own family. A combination of her own resilience, help from others – notably her aunt – and sheer good fortune, led to a remarkable series of narrow escapes and her moving from hiding place to hiding place to survive a conflict which saw six million Jews perish.
Janine’s moving account held the large audience of Year 9 pupils rapt. Through it all, emerged the twin themes of the evils of discrimination and persecution alongside a sense of the indomitably of the human spirit in the very worst of situations. Janine’s own warmth and humanity shone through. Her unassuming yet wonderfully inspirational presence filled the room as she related her humbling story quite devoid of self pity or bitterness. I would defy anyone not to be moved by her testimony. A torrent of excellent questions from the pupils amply demonstrated the impact of her words.
Such visits are worth a thousand classroom lessons and provide cause for deep historical, philosophical and psychological reflection. Janine is a remarkable individual who had the misfortune to encounter an exceptional evil. To meet her and to hear her tale is to realise that out of the darkness good can prevail.
Head of History