Tomi’s talk: Holocaust survivor of Bergen Belsen concentration camp living in Ireland.
“Experiences as a child prisoner and author of “I was a boy in Bergen Belsen”
Tomi’s story is a story of the past. It is also a story for our times. The Holocaust reminds us of the dangers of racism and intolerance, providing lessons from the past that are relevant today. In Tomi’s words “The Holocaust didn’t start with cattle wagons and gas chambers, but with whispers, taunts, daubing, abuse, and finally murder. One of the lessons we must learn is to respect difference and reject all forms of racism and discrimination.”
Tomi Reichental was born in 1935 in Piestany Slovakia. In 1944 he was captured and deported to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp with his mother, grandmother, brother, aunt, and cousin. When he was liberated on the 15th of April 1945, he discovered that 35 members of his extended family were murdered, Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins died in the Holocaust.
For 60 years, Tomi didn’t speak of his experiences “not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t.” Since breaking his silence, he has been on a mission of remembrance. Tomi has lived in Dublin since 1959. Since 2004 when Tomi began to speak about his experiences, he travels up and down the country twice a week to talk to Leaving Cert students.
In October 2011 Tomi’s first book was published “I Was a Boy in Belsen” He is now in the process of writing his second book. The latest project for Tomi was fulfilled with the premiere of his second film “Close to Evil” which had its premiere at the 25th Galway International film festival where the film earned 2nd place in the documentary feature, also directed by Gerry Gregg.
So, why has 84-year-old Tomi Reichental, after 60 years of unbroken silence and 45 years of residential anonymity in a quiet cul-de-sac in Rathgar, embarked on his public mission of remembrance? As one of only 2 Holocaust survivors left in Ireland, Tomi is mindful that the horrors of the Holocaust will soon pass from memory to history. The words of Paddy Fitzgibbon at the unveiling of the only Holocaust memorial in Ireland at Listowel, Co. Kerry are imprinted on Tomi’s consciousness:
“Our generation, and the generation after us, will be the last that will be able to say that we stood and shook the hands of some of those who survived. Go home from this place and tell your children your grandchildren and great-grandchildren that today in Listowel, you looked into eyes that witnessed the most cataclysmic events ever unleashed by mankind upon mankind. Tell them that you met people who will still be remembered and still talked about and still wept over 10.000 years from now – because if they are not, there will be no hope for us at all. The Holocaust happened and it can happen again, and every one of us, if only for our own sense of self-preservation, has a solemn duty to ensure that nothing like it ever occurs again”.
Details of this year’s festival programme can be found elsewhere on this website.