“After all the horror, I am doing my best to keep the memory of those lost ones alive. We – you, me, your children, my children – must never forget.” Tomi Reichental.
Tomi Reichental was born in Slovakia in 1934 to a Jewish family. His father was a farmer. When the Slovakian government passed the law against the movement and rights of Jews, they moved from their village. He, with his family except for his father, went on to live in another village but unfortunately, they all were caught and were transferred to Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
On 24th April, Griffith college Dublin organised a discussion with Tomi Reichental. In this discussion, Tomi shared his experiences in Slovakia as a child and as a prisoner in Bergen Belsen concentration camp. The lecture went on for more than 1 hour. He described the life of a Jew in Slovakia in the late 1930s.
Tomi resides in Ireland since 1959, and he is one of the three holocaust survivors living in Ireland. During his talk, Tomi talked about how he and his family suffered at the hands of the Slovakian government. Tomy lost 35 of his family members in HolocaustCuast.He says, he and his family went from civilised people to being treated like animals in no time. “In all, 13 members of my family were rounded up that day in Bratislava and brought to a detention camp, Sered, in Slovakia.”Following a selection process, he and five other family members were sent to Bergen-Belsen where they arrived on November 9, 1944, and they stayed there till the liberation by the British army in 1945.
He shared his experiences as a prisoner in Bergen Belsen. “We use to play in the camp between the corpses and it was a common sight for us, those bodies were left there to rot, we use to play hide and seek behind the piles of those dead bodies.” Tomi said in the discussion.
He talked about the hardship of people in the camp, the life expectancy in the camp was 2 to 3 months. They were starving. they were served with 2 pieces of bread with coffee in the breakfast, turnip and water in the lunch and then 3 pieces of bread and a cup of coffee in the dinner. They were consuming around 600 calories a day which is far less than an average person daily intake of 2000 calories.
“The inmates around us were like skeletons with shaved heads. We didn’t know if they were male or female.Sometimes they fell down and didn’t get up. We saw people dying in front of us. We could see their corpses all around us.“ Tomi said! People were dying of starvation and freezy cold weather.
Tomi wrote ‘i was a boy in Bergen Belsen ‘ book, in which he shared his experiences as a boy in the labour camp in Belsen. The book gives a very clear idea of his early life and as a prisoner in the camp.
He talked about the environment of the camp. “It was very dirty and no human can live there. Women were cooking food sitting next to the corpses.” Tomy said.
I asked him about the people who still deny the occurrence of the holocaust, this is what he has to say :
Tomi, now 84 years old, and it took him 55 years to talk about it. “I couldn’t, my wife died 13 years ago, and she never knew anything about me. All she knew was that I was a Holocaust survivor and had been to Bergen-Belsen, but she died not knowing what I went through.”
He feels for the people who are getting killed every day in the name of war. He wants the world to become more acceptable towards other religions, race, colour and gender. People are equal and they should e treated in such a way.