Tomi Reichental speaking to Transition Year students from Coláiste Bríde in Enniscorthy library
Tomi Reichental author of I was a Boy in Belsen (O’Brien Press) talking about his experiences in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in two podcasts from NearFM. He was not raised by a wealthy family in Weimar Berlin, nor was his childhood experience one of deprivation in the Warsaw ghetto. Rather he grew up in rural Slovakia, where his family were almost the only Jews in the village. Tomi recalls a carefree, integrated childhood. In the first part of a two part interview, he outlines this childhood which was violently interrupted, initially by the outbreak of World War II and latterly through the Final Solution, which saw his family see out the war in the death camp of Bergen-Belsen. In the second part Tomi recalls Belsen-Bergen from a child’s perspective. He shares his accounts of human behavior that ranged from the extreme cruelty and brutality, to the selfless humanity shown by some inmates to others. In graphic examples he illustrates the Nazi value of human life by reference to the latrine dolls. This callous indifference was most personally and painfully brought home to Tomi when he recollects the funeral rites. Tomi’s experiences were so traumatic he was unable to speak about them publicly for over 50 years. He is one of the few remaining living witness to the horror of the Holocaust. Tomi appreciates the 35 family members who were murdered by the Nazis cannot ever return, but he comes to us with an important message, to ensure that such atrocities can never happen again, ANYWHERE.