Nishkam High School students meet Holocaust Survivor Zdenka Fantlova

  • 4th March, 2019

On Friday 1st March, students from Nishkam High School visited the home of Holocaust Survivor Zdenka Fantlova, alongside CORE Education Trust CEO and Echo Eternal founder Adrian Packer CBE, to discuss their work on the Echo Eternal project, which was inspired by her testimony.

As part of the inaugural year of Echo Eternal, a commemorative arts, media and civic engagement project, Nishkam High School worked with local artist-in-residency Roz Shabazz-Johnson from Complex Simplicity to create a series of representative and reflective artworks, as well as a short film, in response to Zdenka Fantlova’s UKHMF Holocaust Survivor Testimony. The testimony was gifted to the school by the UKHMF as part of the project. The testimony was one of 112 interviews conducted by Natasha Kaplinsky on behalf of the UKHMF.

Holocaust Survivor Zdenka Fantlova watches Echo film inspired by her UKHMF testimony with the students who made it.

The meeting between the students and Zdenka presented the opportunity for further discussion and reflection on the Holocaust, Zdenka’s story and their responses to it. It further strengthens the projects aim to bring together diverse communities in collaborative contexts. Zdenka spoke to the students about her life, narrating her story from the Nazi occuptation, through her time at Terezin, Auschwitz, the death marches and her eventual rescue at Bergen-Belsen. She signed copies of her book and gave students advice for the futute over Afternoon tea.

Zdenka Fantlova was taken to six different concentration camps throughout World War II, during which she witnessed her father interrogated and removed by the SS, her mother taken to the gas chamber in one of the camps and her boyfriend, Arno, sent to a punishment camp. Arno presented Zdenka with a tin engagement ring engraved with his name. She was stripped of all her possessions; however, she hid the ring in her mouth and wore it as a symbol of hope and strength.

Zdenka Fantlova signs copies of her autobiography for the students

Adrian Packer CBE, CEO of CORE Education Trust and Founder of Echo Eternal said:

Echo Eternal allows us to pay tribute to the survivors’ testimonies and champion civic engagement. We have created ‘echoes’ to spark light, to create new life, and new impulses. 

It is fantastic to see the impact the programme has had on the individual schools taking part. It’s inspiring to see Nishkam High School continue to share their experiences and their sparks of light to further strengthen the bond between survivor and student. Their meeting with Zdenka highlights the necessity to educate young people on the events of the past to safeguard the future.”

Ela McSorley, Trust Director for Learning & Teaching at Nishkam High School said:

“From the very start of the project, we have immersed ourselves in Zdenka’s story and have learnt so much more about the holocaust and the impact on ordinary people, as a result.  We have watched our students build real understanding and compassion for what happened and a determination to ensure the memories and truths are preserved and lessons learnt are shared with future generations.  

This project has been life changing; the memories we as teachers and the children will take from this visit to the incredibly warm, brave and vivacious Zdenka, will remain with us forever. As will the duty we have been given: to ensure no-one denies the holocaust and where we can we will educate and set about changing minds.”

Students from Nishkam High School said:

“It was a very unique and humbling experience, which is very special to us.”

“We will remember this forever.”

“She gave us a duty – to fight against holocaust denial, to keep going and share the stories and the truth.”

“She gave us advice: every day is a gift…don’t give up.’ ‘It’s made us question the trivial things we complain about.”

“We are the last generation who will meet the survivors.”

Holocaust Survivor Zdenka Fantlova with Nishkam High School students and staff, CORE Education Trust CEO and Echo Eternal Founder Adrian Packer CBE and Tim Kiddell.