THE STORY OF how an Irish-based survivor of the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp came close to meeting one of his jailers over 60 years after the Holocaust will be broadcast tonight.
Tomi Reichental – who has lived in Dublin since the 1960s, marrying here and raising a family – has become an inspirational figure by travelling to schools around Ireland to relate the devastation of what happened in those black years. He is the author of the book, I Was A Boy In Belsen. (You can read a previously-published extract from that on TheJournal.ie here.)
It was not always something he could bear to speak about. He tells the makers of Close to Evil, which is to show on RTÉ One tonight:
For over 50 years, I couldn’t talk about what I saw and went through. Six million people like me were murdered in the Shoah (Holocaust). Among them were 35 members of my family.
However, following a radio interview about his traumatic past, a listener comes forward with some startling information – that one of the female jailers at Bergen-Belsen, Hilde Lisiewicz, is still alive – and that there might be a possibility that Tomi could meet her.
She was one of 31 found guilty of crimes against humanity in a trial in 1945. Eleven of these were executed, but Lisiewicz went on to marry and live in Hamburg.
The documentary follows Tomi’s extraordinary decision to try to reach out to her. It journeys with him to travel to his native village of Merasice in Slovakia, from which his family attempted to flee – and documents an extraordinary meeting that takes place.
This six-minute excerpt outlines why he felt the need to make peace with the demons of his past:
- Close to Evil is broadcast at 9.30pm on RTÉ One tonight, 1 September. The doc won the audience award for best feature at the Dublin Stranger Than Fiction festival 2013.