Holocaust survivor inspires students on visit to Portsmouth school

VISIT Walter Kammerling who was saved from the Holocaust in 1939. Picture: Steve Reid (122269-037)
VISIT Walter Kammerling who was saved from the Holocaust in 1939. Picture: Steve Reid (122269-037)
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STUDENTS were given a first-hand account of the Second World War’s greatest atrocity from a Holocaust survivor.

Walter Kammerling, who fled Nazi-occupied Austria when he was 15 years old, paid a visit to history and politics pupils at Portsmouth Grammar School.

CAPTIVATED He gives a lecture to students. (122269-024)

CAPTIVATED He gives a lecture to students. (122269-024)

The 89-year-old gave a presentation of his harrowing experience as a teenager living in Vienna, witnessing widespread persecution of hundreds of Jewish men and women during Kristallnacht in November 1938.

Mr Kammerling told students that he was beaten by Nazi enforcers and ordered to scrub the streets.

He described how he managed to flee the country on the Kindertransport – a train for children headed for the UK – but had to leave his parents and older sister behind.

They were sent on the penultimate journey to Auschwitz just three months before it was liberated. He never saw them again.

Mr Kammerling stayed at a holiday camp called Dovercourt before being sent to live in a Jewish community in Northern Ireland.

He said he joined the British armed forces in March 1944 and married his wife Herta, who also travelled on the Kinderstransport, 68 years ago.

Mr Kammerling added he only found out about his family’s deaths in a document when returning to Vienna. He was told they had been sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia before being sent to Auschwitz.

He told The News: ‘I was born five years after the First World War and for me it’s a closed book.

‘If I read about it, it’s nothing. If the students read about what happened it’s also nothing, but although it was so long ago, I’m still a contemporary of theirs and I was just at their age when it affected me.

‘It becomes part of their own experience.’

Jack Ross, 14, said: ‘I thought it was inspirational and fascinating to hear it from a first-hand point of view.’

Head of history and politics at Portsmouth Grammar School Simon Lemiex said: ‘I thought it was very important that pupils have first-hand views from someone who went through the ordeal.’