It was only recently that Ivan Shaw began to share his experiences of the Holocaust in association with the Holocaust Education Trust. Pupils and staff at the College were truly privileged to hear his life experiences as young boy living in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (present day Serbia).
Such opportunities will become increasingly rare as time passes. Ivan’s decision to talk about his life during and post Second World War, despite the pain and sadness that accompanies it, was motivated by the fact that many who lived through the Holocaust are passing away and due to his concern that levels of hatred and prejudice towards minorities are rising dangerously in the UK today.
Ivan’s remarkable narrative and personal reflections relayed the atrocities of the Holocaust from the perspective of a five-year-old boy whose comfortable middle-class life was turned upside down in 1944 when the deportation of Jews from Novi Sad began.
This included having to say goodbye to his father and mother, with absolutely no understanding that this would be forever.
Ivan was initially cared for by his aunt until his concealment was given away a few days later. Fortunately for him, moments before his aunt was sent by train to Auschwitz, she saved his life and saw him into the safe hands of another aunt, with whom Ivan stayed in hiding for nine months.
Following the Red Army’s liberation of Novi Sad, Ivan continued to live with his aunt, staying with her for the next three years. But, as the communist way of life began to negatively impact Yugoslavia (significant for a country that had just been through the tragedy of war), Ivan’s aunt made the decision, with a heavy heart, to send him to England to live with relatives. Ivan was aged nine at the time and understandably very reluctant to leave. Fortunately for Ivan things took a positive turn soon after arrival and he began to experience and enjoy the freedoms of England.
There were so many interesting parts to Ivan’s testimony. However, the statistical emphasis on the genocide, which saw six million Jews killed (including 90% of the Jewish population of Yugoslavia), out of which 1.5 million were children, was the most powerful and poignant reminder of this unforgivable event.
Ivan highlighted the town of Epsom town in comparison, whose population currently resides at 90,000, expressing that 110x that population died in the Holocaust. These are stats that cannot and should not ever be ignored. Additionally, the bravery of his family is something that he stressed throughout. They, like so many others, made decisions during a terrible time and saved his life in the same way the lives of many others were saved. As the lifespans of those with personal experiences fades, the opportunity for students to embrace amazing opportunities like this is absolutely critical in a world where bigotry and hatred is still very much alive.
You can listen to Ivan’s testimony below:
By Solomon Ekoku (Fa)