On Friday 28th May students at Brampton College were extremely privileged to hear a Holocaust survivor, John Dobai, talk about his experiences during WW2.
John was born in 1934 in Budapest, Hungary. In his youth, John’s parents decided to keep his Jewish identity hidden from him in order to protect him from the hate and discrimination Jewish people were subject to at the time. His family changed their surname and he was christened as Roman Catholic.
Despite these measures that John’s family took to try and shield him from the virulent anti-Semitism, the Dobai family were still forced to wear the yellow Star of David marking them out as Jews. As the war worsened and the Nazi party invaded Hungary, John’s father was taken into a forced labour camp and his aunt and cousin were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Throughout the war John was forced to flee his home and hide in the homes of non-Jewish families so as to evade capture, deportation and death.
After being released from the labour camp, Johns’ father managed to get a pass from the Swedish government stating that John and his parents were protected and so preventing their deportation to Germany and the labour camps. This won the safety of John and his parents who survived however the Nazis murdered his aunt and many of their neighbours.
Hearing John’s story and the trauma he went through highlighted the cruelty of discrimination and baseless prejudice. It also shone a light on the importance of understanding and empathy. What inspired me most was that at the end of the talk John told us that he gives these talks “because I want to remember the family members killed and the people who were murdered for no reason other than they were Jews and I want the next generation to fight racism in all forms”. Despite the hardship and trauma that John suffered he continues to relive these painful memories to educate and spread the ideas of tolerance and understanding.
Hearing first hand about the atrocities people can commit against one another is a stark reminder that we need to guard against prejudice and discrimination. This is not something that can be taken for granted and understanding and acceptance are ideals that need to be actively worked towards – as John testimony shows, the consequences of not doing so are truly horrific.
By Amy Hirschowitz, student