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Joanna Millan

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Joanna Millan (Shorter Writing Task) Little Bella Rosenthal hadn't had the chance to celebrate her first birthday when she and her mother were taken from their home in Berlin and sent to a Nazi concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Leader reporter Sue Smart caught up with Bella when she visited a North Wales school to educate young people about the Holocaust, in which six million people died. There was no trace on the face of this gentle grandmother that told of the horror she had been born into. Her harrowing story laid a blanket of shock and silence over more than 100 high school pupils from Bryn Alyn School, Gwersyllt, near Wrexham. They sat quietly and still as the story, illustrated with black and white photographs, unfolded. Young faces full of innocence looked back at them from the large screen without any idea of the nightmares that were to come. The testimony of Holocaust survivor, Bella, who was adopted after the war and had her name changed to Joanna Millan, was riveting. She told the pupils and guests it was a very scary time once the war started and her parents knew what was going to happen to them. As single people, they did not want to be alone, they wanted the support of each other and so they married in 1941. Nine months later, in August, 1942, Bella Rosenthal was born but their family life was short-lived. ...read more.


At the time, Bella was not even two-years-old. The pupils heard how 15,000 children under the age of 16 were sent to Theresienstadt, yet at the end of the war, less than 100 were still alive. Bella was one of them. Any child over the age of 10 was put to work, she said, and they were much more likely to survive if they did work. The children were kept in separate houses according to age and some children were given secret lessons but the little ones were kept separated and had nothing - no toys, and no one to care for them. There were six young orphans in the concentration camp, three boys and three girls. Bella was one of them and she was there for two years. "Women in the kitchens took it in turns to bring us food, whatever they could, to keep us alive," said Bella. One woman in particular, Litska Shallinger, knowing that the food in the camp would be contaminated, would go into the vegetable patch and hide clean, fresh vegetables under her clothes and some of those she would give to Bella. "I think this food saved my life," said Bella, still amazed at the woman's kindness. At the end of the war Litska wanted to take Bella home but she was not allowed as the authorities did not think she had the means to care for a child. ...read more.


I don't want to push it under the carpet. It's part of who I am. "Genocide is awful. Each genocide is unique and terrible for those involved. The Jews wanted to live side by side in peace and take a full part in society," she said to the pupils. But the Nazis used the most cold-blooded industrialised way of getting rid of Jews. Jewish people were taken out of their homes, offices and schools, kicking and screaming and they disappeared. Bella said people asked: "What could we have done?" But people chose to not care. Like having one bully in your class - if you don't get together and say you're not putting up with it, it will continue. Bella said people in Europe did nothing and because they did not care enough, six million people died. "They could have done something about it," she said, looking straight at the pupils. Bella concluded by saying she hoped people would not just stand by and say "it's those people, it's not us". The gentle survivor said: "It does matter what happens to other people. We should take responsibility." Personally, I believe a woman so strong, as to live under a new identity, aware of the danger she was in as a Jew, is an influential heroin. The utter respect she gained during the cause of her adult-hood, working to prevent such abolishment happening against is credible and if anyone, for assistance and astounding bravery, deserves and honour, it is OBE Bella Rosenthal - Joanna Millan. It is a world of possibilities... ...read more.

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