'Do not hate', Auschwitz survivor tells students
IT'S a talk he's given 50 times over the past year alone but holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper never tires of telling it.
Sent to Auschwitz at the age of 14, he witnessed atrocities that his young audiences find incomprehensible.
He believes he owes it to those families wiped out to tell their story.
Mr Shipper's account begins over 70 years ago as a young boy in the Polish city of Lodz, home to 260,000 Jews like himself.
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Sometimes the 82-year-old is asked how he remembers events from so long ago.
His reply is "how can I forget?"
After the Germans invaded, 10-year-old Zigi, who was brought up by his grandparents, worked 7am-7pm in a metal factory in the city which became a ghetto. He describes himself as lucky but just as frequently talks of feeling dehumanised.
Recalling his arrival at Auschwitz in an overcrowded cattle truck, he remembers how the old, disabled, children and mothers with babes in arms were segregated.
"German guards tried to rip the child from their arms. Many times they shot the woman and child," says Mr Shipper.
Others were sent to their fate in the gas chamber.
His teenage audience hangs on every word as he says: "How can a human being do that in daytime and in the evening sit down with their wife and children and eat his dinner knowing what he did at lunchtime? What kind of people are they?"
Mr Shipper was given striped pyjamas to wear, with a number.
"I thought now I have absolutely nothing. I haven't got parents, grandparents, no possessions, not even a name. All I am is 84303."
He was later sent to a labour camp, where again he spoke of unimaginable horrors. Sadly, his grandmother, who had been detained in a different concentration camp, died on the day it was liberated and he doesn't know what happened to his father.
He was eventually reunited with his estranged mother in London where he met a French girl, married, had two daughters and six grandchildren.
Mr Shipper tells the audience: "It does not matter how much you've read, or seen on film or hear from a holocaust survivor. When you go to Auschwitz-Birkenau you will never forget what you've seen. It becomes part of you. I beg of you, whatever you do in your future life, do not hate. We are all the same."
Lauren French, an 18-year-old student at New College Nottingham's High Pavement sixth form says: "You read books but it's not the same as hearing it direct."
Jade Clarke, 18, says to Mr Shipper: "Despite the fact you had everything taken away from you, you carried on surviving."