Holocaust survivor’s tale

Holocaust survivor Hetty Verolme (centre) with Mandurah Catholic College students Antoinette Palermo, Brianna Whitcher, Lauren Bailey and Nick Lacey. Picture: Jon Hewson www.communitypix.com.au d398130
Holocaust survivor Hetty Verolme (centre) with Mandurah Catholic College students Antoinette Palermo, Brianna Whitcher, Lauren Bailey and Nick Lacey. Picture: Jon Hewson www.communitypix.com.au d398130

Speaking to a group of Year 10 students at Mandurah Catholic College, Mrs Verolme tells them ‘it did happen and to never forget’.

When she was younger than the audience in front of her, Mrs Verolme and her family were sent to the notorious concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.

The students heard about the horrors of camp life.

‘We would have a black coffee in the morning, no sugar; then in the afternoon three quarters of a litre of soup, which was basically brown water with some carrot or parsnips,’ she said.

‘We were given a slice of black bread; people were so hungry, with hawk eyes they would watch them cut the bread exactly four centimetres thick.

‘Our beds had to be perfectly straight, no wrinkles or bubbles, or our rations were confiscated; 70 years later I can still make my bed straight.’

Mrs Verolme had many narrow escapes from death, but in the end, food saved her life. Her mother had given her a jam jar of sugar when a camp guard, Sister Luba, came and asked for some sugar to make a cake.

Just one teaspoon could have brought Mrs Verolme bread, but she gave it up. In return for the sugar, Mrs Verolme asked Luba to look after her brother.

Two days later, the camp was evacuated. Sister Luba brought Mrs Verolme to the Beast of Belsen, Josef Kramer, who personally sent her to the children’s barrack and inadvertently saved her life.

Society and environment head Karen Hall said it was educational to incorporate the stories of a Holocaust survivor into the syllabus.

‘The students are studying World War II as part of the new curriculum, and we talk about the Holocaust,’ she said.

‘The students look at sources and text books, but there’s nothing like this.’

Year 12 student Brianna Witcher (17) asked specially to attend the talk.

‘I don’t know why this has always fascinated me,’ she said.

‘But, I always knew terrible things happened.

‘My grandfather was in the war and doesn’t want to talk about it, so when people are willing to talk, it is important to listen.’