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Never Again

Holocaust Memorial Day is on 27 January

by Dr Tim Dowley, author of Defying the Holocaust

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To remember the Jewish Holocaust through one family’s story.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Never Again) and the means to display them.

  • Note: this assembly contains a lot of information, so the leader needs to be familiar with the script prior to the assembly.


  1. Have Slide 1 showing as the students enter the room.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    Explain to the students that in the 1930s, Hitler and the Nazis regarded Jews as their enemy and set out to exterminate them. They targeted other groups, too, including people with mental and physical disabilities and gay men. They set up large concentration camps and death camps with hundreds of subsidiary camps, which stretched like giant, evil spiderwebs across Europe.

    During the Second World War, the Nazis murdered approximately six million Jewish people and at least five million non-Jews. In total, at least 11 million people died in Nazi concentration camps and death camps. Of these, one million were children. More than 1.1 million people died at a concentration camp in Poland called Auschwitz.

    Explain that it is vital that these figures are recorded and remembered. However, the numbers are so huge that it’s difficult to take them in.

  3. Explain that it might be easier to understand the enormity of what happened by considering the story of a single Jewish family that was caught up in these events.

    On 17 April 1939, the day after the Germans occupied Prague, the Czech capital, a Jewish man named Leon Bonda escaped to Paris, leaving behind his wife, Liesl, and two young children, seven-year-old Jean and four-year-old Mariette. Soon after this, Liesl was arrested and held in jail for five weeks, until her uncle managed to get her released.

    One freezing January night in 1940, Liesl and her two children left Prague by train. They travelled first to Genoa, in Italy, and then on to Paris, where they were reunited with Leon. However, two months later, on 14 June 1940, the Germans occupied Paris, and the family had to move on again. Leon bought a lorry and they drove south to the unoccupied area of France, travelling by night and sleeping by day.

    Show Slide 3.

    Finally, the family arrived at a tiny village called Saint-Romain-et-Saint-Clément, where the mayor persuaded his neighbours to take in the Jewish refugees. Leon rented a small flat that had a living room, a bedroom and a small kitchen. The toilet was in a smelly shed at the bottom of the garden. Everyone in the village knew that a Jewish family was living in their midst. Eventually, someone denounced them to the authorities. They had to move quickly to a different area, where Leon was forced to work on the land.

    At dawn on 26 August 1942, the Nazis planned a major round-up of Jews. Warned beforehand, Jean and Mariette – the two children – hid in a field of Jerusalem artichokes, while their parents hid in a haystack. Policemen prodded the straw with pitchforks, but fortunately didn’t discover them.

    For ten days, the family managed to survive in the forest, until the children were taken to live in a château that was run by a Jewish aid organization.

    Show Slides 4-5.

    There, they lived mainly on lentils, and even ate raw potatoes in the fields. Meanwhile, their parents moved from farm to farm, trying to find people who would be willing to shelter them.

    With the help of the Resistance, the Bondas eventually fled to the town of Grenoble, near the Swiss border, hidden under furniture on the back of a lorry. A Christian called André Girard-Clot found them a hotel where they wouldn’t have to reveal their names. Friends in the Resistance gave them forged identity cards and warned them when there was a police raid. They lived in constant fear and slept in different beds most nights.

    In March 1943, Leon learned that the children were again in peril. The Nazis were deporting Jewish children and their teachers from the château to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. A helper fetched the children and found the family a flat in a poor part of Grenoble, where they were able to live unnoticed. They buried their genuine identity papers, and used the false surname ‘Bour’.

    On 15 August 1944, the family heard on the radio that the Allies were coming. Seven days later, they watched as the victorious soldiers marched in, throwing chocolates, sweets and chewing gum to the children.

    André Girard-Clot, the man who had helped the Bondas, owned a draper’s shop in Grenoble. With his wife, he helped to save 32 Jewish families, hiding them in his shop or his home for days and sometimes weeks. The shop stood on a street corner and had entrances on two different streets, so fugitives could enter by one door and escape by another.

    Later in the war, André was imprisoned by the German secret police, the Gestapo, for his activities with the Resistance. He was sent to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he died in 1944.

    The Bonda family eventually travelled to safety in Wales, where they were reunited with other members of their family. However, the uncle who had managed to rescue Liesl from prison, and other members of their family, were killed in ghettos and concentration camps.

Time for reflection

Encourage the students to reflect upon the following questions.

- Can you remember all of the people who helped the Bonda family?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Were these people specially trained to help?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Did it take courage for them to help?

- Why did they help?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Read the following statements, allowing the students some time for thought and, if possible, discussion.

Show Slide 6.

‘A person who saves one life, it is as if they saved an entire world.’ (The Talmud)

Show Slide 7.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Show Slide 8.

I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world. Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones . . .: thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.’ (Yehuda Bauer, Israeli professor)

Lord God,
We remember all those who bear the inner or outer scars of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.
Be close to them.
Restrain all those who are filled with hatred and who use violence.
Change their hearts.
As we remember, bring home to us the reality of evil.
Help us to stand up against wrong, even if we suffer by doing so.
Help us to defend all of those who are not strong enough to defend themselves.


‘We turn to God when we are sorely pressed’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
we pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
we seek release from illness, guilt and death:
all people do, in faith or unbelief.

We turn to God when he is sorely pressed,
and find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
bowed under weight of weakness, sin and death:
faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.

God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
and feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ gives himself in death:
through his forgiveness sin will find relief.

‘Donna Donna’ by Joan Baez, available at: (4 minutes long)

‘El Male Rachamim’ sung by Cantor Azi Schwartz at the UN, available at: (5.04 minutes long)

Publication date: January 2020   (Vol.22 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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