History GCSE: Anita Lasker-Wallfisch addresses German Parliament

Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch is invited to Berlin to address the German Parliament, in honour of Holocaust Memorial Day and to caution against forgetting the past.

Prior to the trip, Anita’s daughter Maya discusses the book her mother made for her 40 years after the war ended, called 'Inherit the Truth'.

Growing up, the family never spoke of what Anita had endured during the Holocaust. The book finally explained to Maya and her siblings the detail of Anita’s experience and the fate of their extended family.

Anita and Maya travel to Berlin together for Anita's speech and contemplate what difference speaking out as a survivor can make. Anita worries it can do very little.

She uses her speech at the Bundestag to underline the importance of learning the lessons of the Holocaust, to avoid a catastrophe on that scale ever happening again. She has spent many years telling her story, mainly in Germany, as a warning for the future. Within her speech she acknowledges how challenging it is, for young people in particular, to connect with the past but emphasises how important it is to remember.

For many years, Anita would not visit Germany because of the anger she felt following the Holocaust. She wants to build bridges now, while she can, and is mindful that soon there will be no first-hand witnesses left to speak about what happened.

Anita survived Auschwitz as a cello player in the Auschwitz women’s orchestra. The orchestra would play daily as prisoners marched to work as well as playing for the SS guards whenever required. Following Auschwitz, Anita was interned in Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated at the end of the war.

After the war she moved to the UK and co-founded the English Chamber Orchestra.

This clip is from the BBC series, The Last Survivors.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we strongly advise teacher viewing before watching with your students.

Teacher Notes

Does history always repeat itself? Could there be another Holocaust?

Is it important to talk about events of the past? Why?

Does what happened almost 80 years ago have any bearing on the world today?

How important is it to have first-hand accounts of the Holocaust? Can survivors’ testimonies make a difference?

Anita says that it’s hard for young people to connect to what happened. Why do you think this is? Is it possible to relate to events that took place almost 80 years ago?

Use Anita’s experience to learn about the Auschwitz orchestra.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching history at GCSE and above in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4/5 and above in Scotland.

More from The Last Survivors

Frank Bright recounts the fate of his former classmates
Maurice Blik confronts the impact of his experiences
Manfred Goldberg confronts the death of his brother
Ivor Perl returns to Auschwitz with his daughter
Sam Dresner grapples with his memories of the Holocaust