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Surviving the Holocaust - Zahava Kohn's story

Posted on: 25/05/2022

Surviving the Holocaust – Zahava Kohn’s story

Year 10 GCSE history students had the fantastic opportunity last week of hearing the inspirational story of Zahava Kohn and her family’s survival.  Hephzibah, Zahava’s daughter, visited us twice to speak to the students about her mother’s story.

Zahava Kohn (Kanarek) was born in Palestine and grew up in Amsterdam in the late 1930’s. Holland came under Nazi control in 1940 and almost immediately, the family experienced the Nazi’s persecution of Jewish people.  Zahava and her family were captured and sent to Westerbork transit camp in Holland after which she and her parents were incarcerated in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Miraculously, they survived and following the end of the Second World War settled back in Amsterdam.

In 2001, Zahava discovered her late mother’s archive of documents and memories hidden away in a small bag at the back of her mother’s cupboard.  Hephzibah brought along a lot of these artefacts to show to the students.  These included the yellow star of David which Zahava had to wear on her clothing, and the bowls that were the family’s only possessions when they were at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

It was a fascinating and emotional story and has developed the students’ knowledge of Nazi ideology and the Holocaust.

These artefacts had been precariously collected during the war. Armed with this mountain of memories, Zahava wove together the story of her family’s wartime experiences in the book, ‘Fragments of a Lost Childhood’ (published in 2009). Since its publication, Zahava, together with her daughter Hephzibah has visited schools across the UK and Germany to talk to young people of all backgrounds and creeds about ‘Surviving the Holocaust’. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

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