At the beginning of his visit, Joachim Gauck, together with Naftali Fürst and the survivor’s family, was led through the underground exhibition by Lea Rosh, Chairwoman of the Association Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Uwe Neumärker, Director of the Foundation.
Naftali Fürst then spoke, in the seminar room of the Information Centre, about his life and experiences of persecution with Mr. Gauck and 16 year-old students from the Community School Marzahn-Hellersdorf.
Naftali Fürst, who was born in 1932 in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, was taken in 1942 with his parents and brother to the concentration camp Sered and later moved to Auschwitz Birkenau. At the beginning of 1945, he was deported to Buchenwald, where he was immediately housed in Children’s Block 66. A few days after the liberation of the camps, Harry Miller, an American, took a photo of the emaciated prisoners in the small camp which had been used as a death block. The photo travelled round the world; Naftali Fürst, who was twelve years old at the time, happened to appear in it. Later he commented: »At that moment, I was almost on the other side«. In 1949, he emigrated to Israel.
The conversation with Naftali Fürst as well as the personal encounter with the Holocaust survivor left a very strong impression on those who participated. In response to a question posed by a pupil about why he decided to write a book about his experiences, Naftali Fürst replied: »I have written it for my children and grandchildren in the hope that the younger generation may be able to learn something from it.«
Federal President Joachim Gauck remarked after the discussion: »It is an honour to meet people like Naftali Fürst whose suffering has not turned into hatred. He encourages us all, to recognise injustice and fight against it«.
Uwe Neumärker, Director of the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, who facilitated the discussion with the pupils, commented: »It is impressive that, after a so many years of silence, Naftali Fürst has reached out to Germany in order to enable future generations to learn from history«.
At the end of their visit, the Federal President and Naftali Fürst signed their names in the visitor book of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Other participants in the discussion included scholarship holders from the Student Association Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich.