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DkIT Welcomes Holocaust Survivor Tomi Reichental on Campus

09 February 2019

Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) welcomed Holocaust Survivor, Tomi Reichental to campus this week to meet with students and staff and discuss his experience in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War 2. The visit was organised by the School of Informatics & Creative Arts and included students form the BA (Hons) in Film and Television Production who are  exploring how Holocaust memory is mediated over time and are analysing the mechanisms at play between film, collective memory and historical representation.

Tomi is one of three survivors of the Holocaust residing in Ireland and is renowned for his talks about his wartime experiences. He has spoken extensively about atrocities committed during the Holocaust including his book I Was a Boy in Belsen and three documentaries; Close To Evil, ‘Til the Tenth Generation and “Condemned to Remember”. Tomi is currently in the process writing his second book.

During his lecture, Tomi spoke about why he feels it is important to speak to young people on the atrocities that he survived. He said,

“The reason that my work is so important is because we have to educate the young people of the world of our previous mistakes so that we may never repeat them. I see the world today and I can draw similarities to the events of the 30’s and 40’s. There are so many right-wing political organisations gaining power and it’s important that people do not chose hate. I see the struggles that refugees are going through today and it is comparable to that of what happened when the Jewish people tried to seek refuge in foreign countries during the Holocaust. We must remember to never become the bystander”.

Tomi visited the campus in conjunction with the new module on Holocaust Film and Popular Culture which is delivered in semester 2 of third year on the Film and TV Production programme. His guest lecture was attended by DkIT staff and students and touched on topics such as activism, ethnic discrimination, acceptance and racism. The theatre was packed to capacity with a significant group of students and staff waiting outside to meet Tomi.

Organiser and lecturer in the Department of Creative Arts, Media and Music, Dr. Ingrid Lewis noted,

“It was an honour to welcome Tomi to our campus today and there was huge interest from students and staff across the college with more than 200 students and staff in attendance. The Holocaust is considered as an educational imperative that encourages young people to explore the complexities of the past and to construct meaning from this watershed event. It engages young people into a deep learning process while developing a critical mindset that challenges stereotypes, prejudice and misconceptions. It is wonderful for me as an educator to see how much the students are engaging with this topic and how eager they are to know, to reflect and to discuss about the Holocaust. Tomi definitely captivated our students today and I am certain that his words will resonate with them for years to come.”

Third year Film and TV production student Martin Brady was in the audience and shared his thoughts on his experience. He added,

“When I shook Tomi's hand afterwards I really had no words, no way of conveying how much his experience had touched me. We are among the last generations that will be able to talk to a holocaust survivor so it meant a lot to have this privilege. What struck me most was Tomi's insistence that we do not see the Holocaust simply as a tragic event. It can also be a powerful educational tool to ensure that such an event never happens again.”

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