A Holocaust survivor who witnessed the horrors of Nazi persecution of Jewish people visited a Shropshire school to give a personal testimony about his experiences and how he escaped to England as a child refugee.

Ernest Simon visited Adcote School, at Little Ness, to give a talk to Year 8 and 9 students as part of a day’s events organised by the Holocaust Education Trust.

“It was a huge honour to welcome Ernest Simon to Adcote. His talk on his escape from the Holocaust had us all rapt and you could have heard a pin drop in the room,” said headteacher Diane Browne

“He provided a sobering reminder to us all about how fragile life can be. He was a true inspiration to us all. “

Ernest was a young child living in Nazi-occupied Austria with his parents and younger brother when in November 1938 he witnessed ‘Kristallnacht’ – the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’ – an orchestrated attack on Jewish buildings and property across Germany and Austria.

“Synagogues and Jewish shops were attacked, ransacked, pillaged and burned. From my bedroom window I watched Jewish prayer books and Torah scrolls, that had been seized from the synagogues, burned in the street,” he recalled.

“That night across Austria and Germany 7,500 buildings were destroyed, 267 synagogues were burned and 91 Jews murdered.”

It was a foretaste of worse horrors to come, but that night acted as a catalyst for the founding of the children’s refugee movement, the Kindertransport, in the UK after British Jewish and Quaker leaders lobbied the Government to allow unaccompanied Jewish children into the country.

Ernest, aged eight at the time, was lucky to be one of the 10,000 child refugees who entered the UK from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland between November 1938 and August 1939.

Most of those children lost their parents to the Holocaust, but Ernest was fortunate that two months after his arrival in England, his parents managed to get domestic service permits and they and Ernest’s brother moved to Britain.

For two years the family couldn’t live together. Ernest and his brother lived with separate foster families while their parents worked in domestic service. At the start of the war Ernest’s father was arrested and interned on the Isle of Man as an ‘Enemy Alien’. On his release in 1942 the family was reunited. Ernest and his brother both went on to graduate from Leeds University.

Ernest, who travels the UK to speak to schools and colleges about his family’s experiences for the Holocaust Education Trust, said that without the Kindertransport he undoubtedly would have been among the 1.5 million children murdered by the Nazis. His two aunts, two uncles and his grandparents on his mother’s side all lost their lives in the Holocaust.

Adcote students asked lots of questions. Earlier in the day they also took part in a workshop delivered by an educator from the Holocaust Education Trust.