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Thornhill Academy was saddened to hear of the death of Auschwitz survivior Zigi Shipper, who passed away on January 18 on what was also his 93rd birthday.

His death was given extra prominence as it came just nine days before International Holocaust Memorial Day. It made national news, with the BBC telling Zigi’s story across their bulletins on January 27.

Zigi was born into a Jewish family in 1930 and grew up in Poland. The Nazis invaded in 1939 and he soon found himself living in the Lodz ghetto, working in enforced slavery in a factory.

When the ghetto was liquidated in 1944 he was put on a cattle truck to the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland.

He was later put in other camps, facing near-starvation and other horrors, before the British liberated him on May 3, 1945. He settled in England where he would have a family and a business.

He made it his mission to tell his story as widely as possible, particularly to the young. One of the many schools where students were in the palm of his hand as he spoke was Thornhill, which he visited several times.

One visit came in 2015. A later visit had to be carried out remotely, but was no less powerful.

Head of history Annie Harris said:

“We have had Zigi visit us in the past and he always made a huge impression on pupils here at Thornhill. Two years ago, during covid, Zigi and his daughter did a Zoom session with our pupils as well, which again, was just as inspirational.

We have been delivering assemblies and sessions during tutor time in remembrance of Holocaust memorial day. Our technology department has created a memorial statue, where each pupil in our school is going to place a stone with a message on, to place in the memorial in line with Jewish traditions.

Above the memorial, will be the quotation; 'Do not hate' as after every speech Zigi made, those were always his final words and we wanted to place these words here to remember Zigi, but also to show Thornhill breaking the barriers of discrimination.”