The Thoughts of John Chillag.

John in Turin 1993


John was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from a Hungarian ghetto at the age of 17. His mother and many other family members were killed in the gas chambers, while John and his father were sent to the slave labour camp at Bochum. John's father died in the camp. John was transported to Buchenwald and was liberated by the American army in 1945, close to death and weighing four stones. He returned to Hungary after the war, but following the Communist takeover he emigrated to Australia, finally moving to the UK in 1963.

John was one of the Association's most tireless speakers. He spoke to thousands of school students about his Holocaust experiences, partly, he said, so that history can be remembered and carried forward to the next generation, and partly in order that today's young people can learn from this dark chapter of history and act for a better world. He also started his talks by telling the students that at the time it all happened, he was the same age as them. It always struck a chord.

These were notes he prepared for a Citizenship Conference, held in Leeds in 2002.

'Can Utopia ever be achieved? I don't know, but we should certainly strive towards it. We need to be constantly reminded of our capacity and responsibility for making choices which will lead to a better world.

When I was liberated as one of the tragically few survivors of the Hell of Auschwitz and Buchenwald I had many illusions. I thought that generations to come would be free from prejudice forever. Alas I was wrong.

We live in a world of which we could so easily despair. When we dare to look back, we see the past littered with massacres and the debris of ruined communities and devastated cultures. Sometimes this may be a war. Sometimes we call it ethnic cleansing, sometimes mass murder, genocide, Holocaust. But whatever we call it, we have wasted lives, millions of lives.

Understanding - Tolerance - Human Rights - Justice - Political Literacy - Acting responsibly and within a moral code, are essential to fight Prejudice, Ignorance, Racism, Injustice, Persecution. What sometimes starts with picking on people, bullying, can often lead to brutal political intolerance, genocide and crimes against humanity. And one must not lose sight of who are the victims, the perpetrators, and the idle bystanders who just turn their back to the problems.

Education through learning, practicing and promoting democratic ideals of social inclusion must be our goals'.

John died in March 2009. We miss him still.

John at Harrogate Grammar School