Do No Harm

Joshua Anderson – Deputy Head Boy

Do no harm

On 9th July, Year 12 students had a webinar with a 96-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, Iby Knill. Joshua Anderson, Deputy Head Boy, reflects on this and his visit to a former concentration camp earlier in the year.

After visiting Bergen-Belsen on the 12th February and witnessing the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, my eyes have been forever opened by the extremely powerful testimony of Iby Knill. Despite the horrific trauma she has faced, she has an extremely positive resolve towards all aspects of life, including holding no resentment to those at Auschwitz-Birkenau. After being liberated, she spent time working in the home office where she was the only woman out of 50 men. 

After living an extremely normal life up until the 1930s, she noticed a major turning point in 1935 from the introduction of the Nuremberg laws into society. As a young person at the time, she was shocked and confused as to why she was being made to wear a Star of David on her coat and being marked out from the rest of society. Her life was completely turned upside down when a family friend called Lucy was taken away to be used sexually by German soldiers in Russia. This appalled me as I was horrified to hear about how inhumane the Nazi regime was as they took an innocent teenage girl away from her home and forced her into a situation no one should ever have to experience.

After hearing the news, Knill escaped to Hungary as an illegal immigrant up until 1942, when an insider leaked the location of 148 Jewish men and women. The Nazis reacted swiftly and imprisoned her along with everyone else hidden within the network. They were sent to Auschwitz where one of the most upsetting comments I’ve ever heard appeared in one of her poems; Knill wrote: “only the strong and healthy will remain”. I felt extremely guilty when I read this and realised how lucky and privileged we are to have hot meals every single day, to never have to worry about if the water we’re drinking is clean or where we will sleep at night. In April 1944, Knill was sent on a death march towards Bergen-Belsen concentration camp until the march was intercepted by allied forces and her life as a prisoner due to her religion was over. 

After the meeting concluded, she said many powerful and extremely relevant things. She discussed how she has always lived by her father’s motto ‘Do no harm’ and on differences in class, gender, race and religion, she stated that “all differences should be valued and respected”. This remains relevant in today’s society with all the unjust actions that are being taken towards Muslims in concentration camps in China, who are also being persecuted because of their religion. She urged that as humans, we need to learn from the mistakes of the holocaust. Knill also mentioned the fact that “under the skin, we’re all the same”; we all need to understand and appreciate what has been shown to us by the BLM movement (our Head Girl Henna wrote an amazing piece on this which can be read HERE). 

I believe as a school, events like these are key to promoting global issues and as Deputy Head Boy, I was proud at the number of non-historians who turned up to hear the inspirational survivor talk about her experiences. 

I would like to thank Mrs Selby for organising this important event but, most importantly, I’d like to thank Iby Knill for helping us to keep the memory alive and aiding us in remembering the 6 million Jews who sadly lost their lives.  

Some useful websites can be found here if you’d like to hear more about Iby Knill or learn more about the holocaust.

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