Holo­caust tes­ti­mony a life-chang­ing time

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - REXINE HAWES

It’s not ev­ery­day you meet some­one whose job ti­tle is Nazi hunter.

But for­mer Mata­mata woman Saskia van Waai­jen­burg had the op­por­tu­nity as part of a schol­ar­ship to visit Yad Vashem - The World Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Cen­ter in Is­rael.

The Massey High School his­tory teacher and as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal, whose fam­ily still live in Mata­mata, says the schol­ar­ship has for­ever changed her life. It has also changed the way she teaches her stu­dents about the Holo­caust.

Yad Vashem was es­tab­lished in 1953 by an act of the Knes­set (Is­rael’s par­lia­ment) to com­mem­o­rate the six mil­lion Jewish men, women and chil­dren mur­dered by the Nazis and their col­lab­o­ra­tors dur­ing 1933-1945.

The me­mo­rial com­plex con­tains a Holo­caust His­tory Mu­seum and me­mo­rial sites such as the Chil­dren’s Me­mo­rial and the Hall of Re­mem­brance and the In­ter­na­tional school/In­sti­tute for Holo­caust Stud­ies. The schol­ar­ship awarded to Saskia was by the Welling­ton Holo­caust Cen­tre and Yad Vashem.

‘‘I was one of few that got to go and study from pro­fes­sors who are top in the field.

‘‘I have done a lot of study at univer­sity on the Holo­caust, I was in­ter­ested to de­velop my un­der­stand­ing fur­ther. The fact that I learnt dif­fer­ent tes­ti­mony and how to use that in the class­room was great.’’

She was also able to meet sur­vivors, in­clud­ing Eva Ratz Levi - a Schindler Jew and Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

‘‘To meet sur­vivors in that place that was his­tor­i­cally amaz­ing.

‘‘Efraim said in 25 years, not one (sur­viv­ing Nazi) has ever ac­knowl­edged or had re­morse for what they had done.’’

While Saskia said she knew the ex­pe­ri­ence would be emo­tional, she was in no way pre­pared for the im­pact of real life tes­ti­mony.

‘‘I get quite emo­tional still. And that’s one thing I have no­ticed now, I some­times have to stop teach­ing when read­ing tes­ti­mony - I get to a point where it’s too much.’’

Saskia said her teach­ing method fo­cused on the ethos of ‘‘safely in, safely out’’.

It means rather than stu­dents see­ing graphic movies about the Holo­caust, she leaves enough room at the end of each les­son to dis­cuss what they have learned.


Massey High school teacher Saskia van Waar­gen­burg orig­i­nally from Mata­mata, at­tended Yad Vashem Holo­caust Cen­tre, Is­rael.


Holo­caust sur­vivors Daniel Gold (Lithua­nia), Ye­hu­dit Klein­man (Italy) and Rena Quint (Poland).

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