What is it like to have no childhood? Who do you turn to for comfort when all your family have gone? When you are surrounded by adults committing horrific deeds can you ever trust again?
All these questions and more were raised by students at The Peele Community College in Long Sutton on Tuesday when they had the privilege of meeting with a Holocaust survivor as part of their GCSE History studies.
Joanna Millan was a Jewish child born in Berlin in the late 1930s. At age three she was deported by the Nazis to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
Separated from her mother (who later died of tuberculosis in the camp) little Joanna was kept with five other very young children.
Too young to work, they would have starved to death if not for the kindly actions of female camp inmates who smuggled scraps of vegetables to them.
Amazingly, Joanna and the other five infants survived this brutal place – only 100 children did. Liberated by the Russian army, Joanna was put on a plane to Britain where, as all her family had been annihilated, she was adopted and brought up.
She is convinced she was saved for a purpose, and as a strong, independent lady now in her seventies, she is committed to ensure today’s generation know about what happened to her family and thousands like them under the Nazis.
But although there is anger in her story there is no bitterness.
Students were totally overwhelmed by Joanna’s visit.
“She is completely inspirational” said Year 10 student, Daniel Drewry.
“What she overcame was incredible and it really inspires us to achieve. She overcame despite the most horrific things happening.
“It makes you realise that if you think you’re having a bad day, it’s nothing compared to what happened to Joanna and many more people like her.”
Sophie Moyse added: “Being able to listen to Joanna’s experience during the Holocaust was breathtaking.
“Listening to what she has experienced is indescribable. How she coped I have no idea.
“This made me look at life with a whole new perspective and made me appreciate the small things in life, as these are more important, like respecting my family too.
“Joanna hardly remembered her parents and had to live her life knowing that her family were all murdered. I could never be as brave as she was.
Christian Deane added: “I think that it was pretty incredible how Joanna travels round and shares her experiences of being a small child during the Holocaust. She really is inspiring and I have so much respect for her.”
Molly Day-Coombes said: “Meeting Joanna was really interesting and inspirational.
“Surviving a death camp without any family, only other orphans to keep her company, is inspirational in itself.
“The way that Joanna uses her anger towards those people for letting the Holocaust happen, in a positive way, was really interesting.
“She said that she used her anger to motivate herself to keep re-telling her story.”