National Holocaust Day Survivor visits Droylsden Academy
Wednesday 27th January 2016 07:30 Droylsden News Posted by Tom Greggan

Holocaust survivor Joanna Millan has made a moving visit to Droylsden Academy.

She gave a talk to Year 9 students about the Second World War and her experiences of Nazi Concentration Camps.

The students have been studying the atrocities of the Holocaust in their humanities lessons.

They were overwhelmed by her story as she gave a moving and harrowing account of what her family and countless other Jews experienced.

Joanna was born Bela Rosenthal in August 1942 in Berlin. At the end of February 1943, Bela’s
father was taken from the streets of Berlin and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he was killed on arrival.

Later that year, in June, Bela and her mother were taken from their home and sent to the Terezín (Theresienstadt) Ghetto north of Prague. In 1944, when Bela was 18 months old, her mother contracted tuberculosis due to the conditions in the camp, leaving Bela orphaned and alone in the camp.

On May 3, 1945, the Red Cross took over control of the camp and Bela was liberated by the Soviets six days later.

Joanna Millan Holocaust Survivor 2

On August 15, along with 299 other surviving orphans, Bela was flown to England.When they arrived there were in fact 301 children including a little boy who had stowed away.

After living in two children’s homes with other child survivors, Bela was adopted by a childless Jewish couple from London.

Her name was changed to Joanna, and she was told to forget her past and forbidden to contact the other child survivors.

Her adopted parents pretended that she was their natural daughter and told her to keep her identity secret.

Joanna eventually married and had three children of her own. Her only memory was of being in the children’s home although she knew she was adopted and had been in Terezín.

It was only when she was in her early forties that she was contacted by Sarah Moskovitz, an American academic who had read a study by Anna Freud of Joanna and the other five youngest survivors of Theresienstadt.

Both she and Joanna’s husband pushed her into discovering her past.

This proved to been an extraordinary and difficult path for Joanna, but has now managed to discover much of her family’s history and has found living relations all over the world.

Today she speaks regularly about her experiences during the Holocaust.