School level

Tomi Reichental – The Testimony of a Holocaust Survivor

Tomi Reichental was born in 1935 in the village of Merašice in rural Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). In 1944 he was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (pic above from the Imperial War Museums collections) along with his mother, brother and grandmother. He survived the camp and since 1959 he has lived in Ireland.

In February 2020, as part of a wider collaboration with the Holocaust Education Trust, Tomi spoke with Scoilnet about his wartime experience.

The lessons of history cannot be forgotten

Recorded in the PDST Technology in Education, February 2020.
Interviewed by teacher Tracy Hogan (PDST)

The following signpost has been created to enable teachers guide students to particular topics of
interest within the testimony.

00.45-02.00         Video of Jews in Europe in the early 20th
02.00-08.30         Tomi’s early days in Slovakia – the rise of
                              anti-Jewish propaganda
08.30-10.05         A friendship with the local Catholic
10.10-13.30         Other Jews in the village and the
                              introduction of restrictions on Jews
13.30-32.00         Changed life in the village – from Yellow
                              Stars to deportation
32.00-44.00         Pretending to be Catholics - moving to
                              Bratislava and capture
44.00-59.00         Deportation to Bergen Belsen and life in
                              the camp
59.00-1:05.00      Liberation of Bergen Belsen and the
                              death of Tomi’s grandmother
1:05.15-1:07.15   Tomi discovers his father is alive
1:07.15-1:11.40   Return to the family farm and move to
                               Israel, Germany and Ireland
1:11.40-end         Why the story is important and what
                               Tomi hopes students will get from it.

With Tomi are: Heino Shönfeld (Director Holocaust Education Trust), Patrick Coffey (Scoilnet).

The following signpost has been created to enable teachers guide students to particular topics of
interest within the conversation.

01.00-08.00     Life in Slovakia in the 1930s
08.00-13.15     Deportation of Jews
13.30-15.40     Capture of Tomi and why he wasn’t sent to
15.45-19.30     Bergen Belsen
19.30-22.30     Daily life in Bergen Belsen
22.50-27.00     Tomi’s aunt Margo
27.00-30.00     The liberation of Bergen Belsen
30.20-33.10     An Irish priest buries the dead
33.10-37.00     A Christmas gift for the guards
37.05-45.00     How was the Holocaust possible?
45.00-47.00     Did the holocaust influence faith?
47.30-51.00     Does the holocaust differ from other

Supporting Lesson Activities

Pat Callan is a former history teacher who served as national coordinator for Leaving Certificate History. He is a historian of early twentieth century Dublin and Ireland. He has developed some stimulus material to support the webinars on the testimony of Tomi Reichental and a conversation with Tomi Reichental.

Select an area of focus from the tabs below:

Before the War
Tomi’s Experiences
Visual Evidence
Holocaust Survivors
Mary Elmes
Additional Resources

Tomi Reichental, an introduction

Testimony video: signpost 1:11:40 [start]

Tomi Reichental was born in 1935 in Merasice, a small village of around 700 inhabitants in Slovakia. From age four, he was not allowed to go into any public places or allowed to attend the local school.

In November 1944, his family was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He survived the camp, although 35 family members died in the Holocaust. He did not speak of his experiences for almost 60 years. As a witness to the actions of the Nazis against the Jews, he stated, “I realised that, as one of the last witnesses, I must speak out. I owe it to the victims that their memory is not forgotten.”

Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, stated in 2020 that the “visible signs of World War II have largely been erased from the rebuilt cities and towns of Europe, and fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remain to tell their stories”.


Why does Tomi consider that it was important to tell his story as, in his own words, “one of the last witnesses”?

Jews in Europe in the early 20th century

Testimony video: signpost, 0.45-2.00 minutes

Write a sentence describing one item in the video that helps you to understand the lives of Jewish people in Eastern Europe before the Second World War.

Tomi’s early days in Slovakia – the rise of anti-Jewish propaganda

Testimony video: signpost, 2.00-8.30 minutes.Conversation
Conversation video: signpost 1:00 [start]

A “stereotype” is a simplified view of a person, group or idea. Jews were negatively classified as an “inferior” group. How did Tomi first become aware of anti-Jewish feelings in his village community?

Tomi’s experience in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

Testimony video: signpost, 40 minutes
Conversation video: signpost, 15:30

Tomi’s family was captured, separated, and he ended up in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He describes his experience as a young prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp. Identify three significant incidents that upset Tomi during this time. Explain why you chose them.

Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp: a history


How does this history of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. help you to understand the experience of the holocaust?

Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp | The National Holocaust Centre and Museum

The liberation of Bergen-Belsen camp, 1945

David Dimbleby, a BBC radio reporter, gives a graphic description of the liberation of the camp after its liberation by the British and Canadian armies.

An Irish Jesuit priest at Belsen.

Conversation video: signpost, 30:00

Why was Tomi grateful to Fr. Michael Morrison, a Jesuit priest who visited Belsen?
For an article of Fr. Michael Morrison’s career, with more on Belsen, read this BBC article.

BBC - WW2 People's War - Bergen-Belsen: Fr Michael Morrison

Visual Evidence from the Holocaust

Testimony video: signpost, 50 minutes (concentration camp)
Conversation video: signpost, 8 minutes (anti-Semitism, police with Jewish person)

Study these two Holocaust images:

  • Can you suggest who took the photographs?
  • Why were the photographs taken?
  • Can you suggest who the photographs were intended for?
  • What do these photographs tell us about the perspectives of the photographers?
  • Write a caption for each photograph.
  • Should we be using these photographs?
  • How ethical are these images?

Timeline of the Holocaust, 1933 to 1945

As you view Tomi’s Testimony video, pick any three dates that were important for Tomi’s story. Check this timeline to see what was considered to be significant in the wider Holocaust narrative at those times.

Timeline (

Holocaust Survivors who lived in Ireland, written recollections.

Eleven holocaust survivors came to live in Ireland. Pick one of them, and give a brief account of that person’s experience of the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivors in Ireland - HET Ireland

Holocaust Survivors who lived in Ireland, video feature

Five survivors, including Tomi Reichental, feature is a 35-minute documentary. Select one of the five, and write a brief account of that person’s experience during the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivors living in Ireland recount their stories - HET Ireland



Mary Elmes, an Irishwoman who saved many Jews, an Irish Oscar Schindler.

Mary Elmes (1908-2002), an Irish aid worker, saved over 200 Jewish children in France from the concentration camps. She was arrested by the Nazis in early 1943. She was recognised by Yad Vashem museum (Israel) as “Righteous among the Nations”, an award for non-Jews who risked their lives to help Jews during the Second World War. Research her story, and write a paragraph outlining her work on behalf of Jews during the Second World War.

Mary Elmes Biography - HET Ireland

Richard Dimbleby Describes Belsen Added: 13 Nov 2020 Contributor: Scoilnet Resource type: Secondary Source

A Classic recording of BBC journalist Richard Dimbleby's report from April 1945. Dimbleby was the first journalist to enter the camp and his clear, concise report outlines the facts about the camp and the conditions in which occupants found themselves. (Duration 12 mins.)

View full description

How it maps to the curriculum


Strand: 3. The History of Europe & The Wider World

Strand unit: 9. Life in a Fascist/Communist Country (20C)

Suggestions for use: Historic recording - play to class for 12 mins and discuss.

Key Skills: Managing Information and Thinking

Asset type: Audio
Language: English
Collection: Secondary Source
Rights: All rights reserved
Special Needs:

The Holocaust Explained Added: 09 Dec 2014 Contributor: Scoilnet Resource type: Guide/notes

Information that is perfect for JC students that explains the horror of the holocaust. Poses questions like: What was the Holocaust? What is anti-semitism? What was the final solution? Also includes a timeline of events for the Holocaust. Includes numerous testimonies from survivors.

View full description

How it maps to the curriculum

SESE History

Strand: Story

Strand unit: Stories from the lives of people in the past

Content objective:
This resource should enable a child to:

  • become aware of the lives of women, men and children from different social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, including the lives of 'ordinary' as well as 'more famous' people
  • discuss the actions and feelings of characters
  • discuss the attitudes and motivations of characters in their historical context
  • discuss the chronology of events in a story
  • examine and begin to make deductions from some simple relevant evidence
  • use appropriate timelines

Suggestions for use: This is a site that attempts to address an horrific story.


Strand: 3. The History of Europe & The Wider World

Strand unit: 10. The Significance of Genocide

Key Skills: Managing Information and Thinking Literacy

Asset type: Online Resource
Language: English
Rights: All rights reserved
Special Needs:

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