Staff and pupils at St John Baptist (CIW) High School in Aberdare were pleased to welcome many guests from the local, wider and professional communities to the first of this week’s Holocaust Memorial assemblies.
We were privileged to welcome Rhondda Cynon Taf Mayor Councillor Rhys Lewis. Also joining our act of commemoration was Mrs Vikki Howells the Welsh Assembly Member for the Cynon Valley and a former pupil of the school.
Mrs Esther Thomas, Temporary Director for Education and Lifelong Learning in RCT, and Mrs Sarah Corcoran who is Challenge Adviser to the school also joined us for our act of worship. From Central South Consortium the guests were Mrs Laura Morris, Senior Strategic Adviser for Secondary, and Mrs Siân Johnson, Communications Manager. SACRE representatives Reverend Sarah Rogers and Mr Robert James were joined by Archdiocese of Llandaff Education Support Officer Mrs Angela Atkinson.
The Holocaust Memorial Day theme for this year is, “How Can Life Go On?” During our assembly we shared the answer to this question which we had asked of a former Polish political prisoner of the Nazi regime. We met Josef Rosotowski on a study tour to Krakow and Auschwitz and he told us of acts of kindness and generosity which had helped him firstly to survive his imprisonment, and secondly, to rebuild his life after the end of World War II.
Whilst imprisoned for taking part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 older prisoners had tried to protect him from harm as he was only sixteen years of age. They shared their limited rations with him and even hid him from the prison guards when his life was in danger. American soldiers who liberated Mauthausen Concentration Camp where Josef Rosotowski had been held also showed him acts of kindness. They provided him with urgent medical help which was needed for his badly broken leg.
All of the acts of kindness had helped Josef Rosotowski to rebuild his life after the end of World War II. As staff and pupils who had met Josef Rosotowski we promised to bring his story back to our community in Wales. Being joined by guests during the assemblies this week has enabled us to do this.