Ruth Barnett escaped and survived one of the most horrific events in history - namely The Holocaust. This week (on Wednesday 18 April) she made her way to London South East Colleges’ Greenwich Campus to address a packed audience about her and her brother Martin’s ordeal at the hands of the Nazis prior to the outbreak of World War II. She also paid tribute to her parents and prominent figures at the time such as Nicholas Winton, Wilfrid Israel and Frank Foley whose kindness, heroism and bravery led to their survival.
Ruth came and talked to over a hundred students from all age groups and backgrounds about the rise of Adolf Hitler and the spread of his Nazi regime throughout mainland Europe. She told of how Jews were first subject to segregation, how their shops and businesses were boycotted and burned, and how this led to greater levels of intimidation and aggression. Eventually, Jewish men, women, and children from across Germany and neighbouring countries, were being dragged from their homes and taken to concentration camps. Here they were treated to unimaginable levels of cruelty and persecution before being murdered in their millions.
Ruth and Martin were forced from their home and made their way by train to Holland and then across the water to the safety of England on what was named the Kindertransport. They were separated from their parents at an early age and spent years not knowing what had become of them. They didn’t even know whether or not they were still alive. After the war, they were reunited having spent over ten years apart.
Ruth and Martin have both led full and meaningful lives since then and though Martin sadly passed away eight years ago, Ruth, despite missing him terribly, has continued with her work as an educator and writer. She now travels the country visiting schools and talking to young people about the Holocaust.
She said: “I am so impressed by the diversity of this wonderful College. I sit here and look around and see so many young people who have the chance to go on and do something great with their lives. We must always remember those people who had their lives taken from them so unfairly. They could have been great scientists; they could have made amazing discoveries and contributed to humanity in such positive ways.”
She then quoted the words of political philosopher Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
College Chaplain, Claudette Douglas attended the talk with a group of her students. She said: “I’m so glad I attended this talk today. It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had. Ruth is an amazing woman. She and her brother had to fight for their lives and I am full of respect and admiration for them. Ruth has given everyone here a very important lesson. The world must never let this happen again.”
This event was organised by the Colleges’ Student Live Team in partnership with The Holocaust Education Trust.