‘I speak so that my past does not become somebody’s future.’
Tomi Reichental was born in Slovakia in 1935 and had a typical rural childhood until the ugly existence of antisemitism began to impact on his life. Liberties we all take for granted were stolen from him and he was treated with ever increasing hostility. Eventually he was captured by the Nazis and incarcerated in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
As the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes, Tomi is acutely aware that he is one of the final witnesses. He feels compelled to tell his story to young people so that they will know what happened in the Holocaust. Tomi believes he owes it to the victims and he owes it to the survivors to ensure that this horrendous episode in European history is never forgotten.
It was a privilege and an honour for our senior level students to hear Tomi’s story for themselves today in Franciscan College Gormanston. He told us the story of how it happened that 35 members of his family were murdered and what became of those who were lucky enough to survive. The students were shocked by the inhumanity of the situation and saddened by the profound effect it had on Tomi himself – he could not speak about these events for more than 50 years.
We are indebted to him for giving so generously of his time and energy today. He spoke individually with many students, signed copies of his book and allowed us to take photos as a memento of his visit.