Life as a Jewish child during WWII

By Emily, Freya, Alyssa and Jess from LVI. 3 February 2020

On Friday 31st January, The Abbey welcomed Mr Peter Briess to come and talk to the whole of UIV and Sixth Form historians about his experiences.

Mr Briess was born in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia in 1931 to a Jewish family. Until he was seven he lived a very happy and comfortable life. However, when the Nazis invaded on the 15 March 1939, their lives would never be the same again. When told that the Gestapo were going to seize their newly built house as their headquarters, his father saw the opportunity to escape Czechoslovakia. He agreed to hand the house over if the commanding officer gave the family written permission to leave. Using this vital document the family was able to travel to the Netherlands and from there to England, but those who were left behind were not so lucky. Almost all of his extended family were murdered.

It was very moving to hear his story and be reminded of the human tragedy of the Holocaust. He made us understand each individual life and the potential that each of them had, which was then destroyed. Everyone in the room was touched by his contextualising of this infamous series of events and the picture he painted of an idyllic life torn to shreds. We would like to thank Mr Briess for taking the time to talk to us about a topic that is very difficult to reflect on.