Author - Benny Royston

#notsilent: Campaign to Remember Anne Frank 70 years after her death

It is inspiring to hear about this new initiative to help us all participate in keeping the memory alive. Please participate — in one minute of witness and solidarity! 

The Anne Frank Trust UK has joined forces with Penguin Random House, the UK publishers of Anne Frank’s diary, to mark the 70th anniversary of Anne’s death with a one minute campaign called #notsilent.

Instead of a one minute silence to commemorate the end of Anne Frank’s short life, the British public are invited to record a video of themselves reading a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing, at any time on or after Tuesday 14th April and then to upload to social media channels using hashtag #notsilent.

Celebrities including Eddie Izzard, Naomie Harris, Simon Callow, Roger McGough, David Miliband, Jacqueline Wilson, children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, Michael Buerk, Arlene Phillips, Ray Quinn and actors Russell Tovey, Ceallach Spellman and Jing Lusi have already recorded or filmed their own reading in Anne’s memory.

According to Gillian Walnes, Co-founder and Vice President of the Anne Frank Trust UK, “Poignantly we will never know the exact date Anne died, but we have carefully chosen the date of 14th April as schools will be in session and it’s one day before the anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen where Anne died at age 15 of hunger and disease. We have a selection of passages suitable for a one minute reading on our website or readers can choose one themselves, or even read something they have written about their own life and hopes.

Through the #notsilent campaign Anne’s voice will resonate loudly around the country and we will stand together against the challenges of prejudice, discrimination and injustices that are still experienced today”.

A #notsilent launch event will be held at the British Library, on Euston Road in London at 9.30 am on Tuesday the 14th April where public readings will take place by Jing Lusi, Arlene Phillips, Friday Download presenter Ceallach Spellman and teenage Anne Frank Ambassadors.


STEP ONE:  Select an extract suitable for a one minute reading. This can either be an extract from Anne’s diary, you can download our selection here, or you can choose your own writing. While you read, either alone, in a group, in your classroom, home, work place or public place, we ask you to film yourself and upload it onto a video sharing platform of your choice (Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr etc) ensuring the video is available to view publicly.

STEP TWO:   Send us the link to your video, by posting it on to the Anne Frank Trust’s Facebook (Anne Frank Trust UK) or Twitter (@annefranktrust) pages, using the hash tag #notsilent. Alternatively, you can e-mail your video via we transfer to

STEP THREE:  We also ask you to share your one minute clip throughout your social media to encourage others to join in.

Thank you for participating and honouring Anne Frank’s memory in this way. We will together be #notsilent.


Honouring Esther: Walking back to the Holocaust in Bristol and Bath

The_Liberation_of_Bergen-belsen_Concentration_Camp,_April_1945_BU4195An extraordinary event will take place on April 14-15 2015 here in the tranquil and peaceful settings of Somerset. A forced walk will take place to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany. The walk from Frome in Somerset to Bath has been meticulously designed to mirror the route that Esther Brunstein was forced to march from Hambuhren-Ovelgonne to Bergen Belsen, Germany.

Esther Brunstein survived the death march and the horrors of life in the concentration camps. After liberation, she came to England and gave birth to Lorna Brunstein, now an artist and creator of this memorial project along with Richard White, a walking digital artist.

It is hard to imagine the hardships and life changing traumatic experience that plagued those who experienced the holocaust first hand. Few survivors remain today, but the memories and lessons of one of humanity’s greatest failures must be remembered, lest we forget and history ever repeats itself.

The line of a Nazi Death March to Belsen transposed to Somerset. A 2 day walk as close as possible to that line. Where the walk intersects the line, interventions. An intimate performative walk-in-witness exploring resonances from the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen.

A walk about time and the land, exile and belonging, the drift of memory and forgetting, memorialising in an era dense with anniversaries.

The Bergen Belsen death camp (previously a German prisoner of war camp before being coverted into a concentration camp to exterminate minorities) saw mass killings of Jews and other targeted minorities by the NAZI regime. For many, execution was a relief from the murderous breakouts of typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, dysentery and starvation. Amongst those who died at Belsen was Anne Frank. She met her death just two weeks before British and Canadian soldiers liberated the camp. Find out more about Belsen here.

Bristol Holocaust Memorial Day is proud to support the Forced Walk honouring Esther. For more information about Bristol HMD, please click here.


Michael Douglas on rise of antisemitism in Europe

Three reasons are outlined  by the Hollywood actor and UN ‘Messenger of Peace:’

“In my opinion there are three reasons anti-Semitism is appearing now with renewed vigilance.

The first is that historically, it always grows more virulent whenever and wherever the economy is bad. In a time when income disparity is growing, when hundreds of millions of people live in abject poverty, some find Jews to be a convenient scapegoat rather than looking at the real source of their problems.”

In other words, times of austerity bring a need for people who are suffering and struggling to look for someone else to blame. (Does human nature really fall that low every time?)

“A second root cause of anti-Semitism derives from an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel. Far too many people see Israel as an apartheid state and blame the people of an entire religion for what, in truth, are internal national-policy decisions. Does anyone really believe that the innocent victims in that kosher shop in Paris and at that bar mitzvah in Denmark had anything to do with Israeli-Palestinian policies or the building of settlements 2,000 miles away?”

In other words, people import the conflict from Israel-Palestine into their cities in Europe due to… perhaps a sense of outrage at perceived victimhood of Palestinians. We should ask ourselves, what moral outrage happens in Europe about Nigeria, China, Darfur, Somalia, Dominican Republic? In any case, the dislike of Israeli politicians transforms into hate crimes against the local Jewish population who had absolutely nothing to do with it, other than perhaps sharing the same religious heritage or culture.

“The third reason is simple demographics. Europe is now home to 25 million to 30 million Muslims, twice the world’s entire Jewish population. Within any religious community that large, there will always be an extremist fringe, people who are radicalized and driven with hatred, while rejecting what all religions need to preach — respect, tolerance and love. We’re now seeing the amplified effects of that small, radicalized element. With the Internet, its virus of hatred can now speed from nation to nation, helping fuel Europe’s new epidemic of anti-Semitism.It is time for each of us to speak up against this hate.”

I disagree. Just because a group is in a small minority (Jews) does not mean it will be hated. And just because a group is large does not necessarily mean than it must give rise to an extremist fringe…

What do you see in his words?


Gandhi’s letter to Hitler in 1939

This week the Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian dignitaries unveil a statue of M.K Gandhi in London.

This is apparently the letter sent by Gandhi to try to avert war at a time when Hitler was ambitiously pushing into Eastern Europe: 

According to the MKGandhi website “the diametrically opposite ideologies adopted by both the leaders prompted Gandhi to write to Hitler to dissuade him from a bloody campaign against humanity.”

The above first letter was written on July 23, 1939 before the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II, while the second was written on Christmas eve in 1940.

Addressing him as ‘Dear Friend’, Gandhi wrote “Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?”

The second letter in December 1940, 17 months later, shows Gandhi clearly stating how appalled he is at Hitler’s conduct while not yet being willing to agree with Hitler’s critics that he is a ‘monster.’  Here is an excerpt:

“We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms.”

to see the full two letters as well as description of the film, ‘Gandhi to Hitler,’ see


Second Generation survivors’ stories from HMD 2015

I’m excited to be able to share with you these moments from our civic commemoration as audio files.

Zuzana Crouch of the Second Generation group speaking about her family’s wartime experiences in Czechoslovakia

Eva Fielding-Jackson recounting her parents’ stories of surviival from Auschwitz and other concentration camps including Belsen, where her father Samuel Feldman was still registered as of July 1947, in part because as a deaf man he had not understood that the war had ended.


international day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking

Bristol HMD is a non-religious organisation and we acknowledge with gratitude the contribution of people of all faiths and none to the struggle for human rights everywhere.

With thanks to the Clifton Diocese newsletter, source of this item.

Sunday, 8 February is the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita and designated as a Day of Prayer for Victims of Trafficking and those who work to combat it.

CT A3 poster

The feast of St Josephine Bakhita – 8 February – as Day of Prayer  for Victims of Human Trafficking and those who work to combat it, has been celebrated by Catholics in England and Wales since February 2013 and in the United States since 2014. The Vatican has also endorsed the celebration of the feast of St Josephine Bakhita as an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

On Sunday 8 February 2015, the Universal Catholic Church will celebrate the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, as the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking” in our parishes, dioceses, schools, communities and groups.  Pope Francis has called human trafficking “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ” and “a crime against humanity

The aim of the Day of Prayer is to raise awareness through homilies, prayers, reflections and discussions on this global phenomenon and the plight of the millions of people, (estimated by the International Labour Organisation to be 2.5 million at any given time) who are affected by human trafficking and to support the work of the church under leadership of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to eradicate of this modern day slavery.

St Josephine Bakhita was born in about 1869 in Darfur, Sudan, into a well-respected and reasonably prosperous family.  Sometime between the age of seven to nine (probably 1877), she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and spent more than twelve years (1877–1889) being bought and sold several times, then given away.  She experienced the moral and physical humiliations associated with slavery. It is said that the trauma of her abduction caused her to forget her own name; she took one given to her by the slavers, bakhita, Arabic for lucky.

Her life changed in 1882 when she was bought for the Italian Consul.  From then on, she received from her masters, kindness, respect, peace and joy. Josephine came to discover love in a profound way even though at first she was unable to name its source.

She was then entrusted to the Canossian Sisters of the Institute of the Catechumens in Venice. There  Bakhita came to know about God whom, ‘she had experienced in her heart without knowing who He was’ since she was a child. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1890, joining the sisters and making final profession in 1896.

The next fifty years of her life were spent witnessing to God’s love through cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door. Her constant smile won people’s hearts, as did her humility and simplicity.

As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness; when asked how she was, she’d respond: ‘As the Master desires’. During her last days she relived the painful days of her slavery and more than once begged: ‘Please, loosen the chains… they are heavy!’

Surrounded by the sisters, she died on 8 February 1947. She was canonized in 2000.

You will find a link to download a prayer card and a poster for the Day of Prayer for the Victims of Human Trafficking here .  To find out more about modern day slavery in the UK and abroad see the following websites, the Medaille Trust , Unseen  and   Unchosen .

There is also information about what you can do to support their work.


Remembering the Bosnian Genocide

In 1992 – 1995, the people of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia were mired in a conflict which led to genocide of the Bosnian people most infamously in the massacre of Srebenica in July 1995.

Today, with the organising and generous hosting by the Bristol Multifaith Forum, people of Bristol were able to come together to  hear Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, and Lord Paddy Ashdown share personal and inspiring stories of their experiences of the Bosnian people and the importance of remembrance as a first step toward preventing such things happening again.


Who was Rudolf Hoess?

according to Wikipedia:

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss (represented in German as Höß, also sometimes spelledHoeß, or Hoess) (25 November 1901[1][2] – 16 April 1947) was an SSObersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel). Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and the SS in 1934. From 4 May 1940 to November 1943, and again from 8 May 1944 to 18 January 1945, he was the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, where it is estimated that more than a million people were killed.[3][4] He was hanged in 1947 following a trial in Warsaw.

Four days before he was executed, Höss acknowledged the enormity of his crimes in a message to the state prosecutor:

“My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the ‘Third Reich’ for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.”

His grandson Rainer Hoess has come out publicly in opposition to his family’s past, going so far as to tattoo a Star of David and the prisoner identification number on his chest of his Jewish adopted ‘grandma’ Eva Mozes Kor. And he campaigns against neo-Nazis and the rise of the far right as you can see in this video.

Read more about Rainer and his planned visit to the 70th anniversary commemorations at Auschwitz on 27 January 2015 in this article:


Understanding the Nuremberg Laws

I have studied these progressively more restrictive laws in the past.  Until now I didn’t understand that one of the Nazis’ goals was voluntary emigration…. while it might still have been possible.

The following is excerpted wholly from the Holocaust Educational Trust’s excellent ’70 Voice for 70 Days’ website and mobile app.


January 27, 2015

Throughout the 1930s, German Jews were subjected to ever increasing legal persecution. The most important legislation came in the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935 which stripped Jews of the rights of German citizens and prevented marriage to non-Jews. However, as the following examples of laws show, persecution could affect any area of life.

10 July 1935
The establishment of Jewish youth hostels is allowed only if they are not adjacent to other institutions or residences and the police have the possibility of easy access for the purpose of supervision. Jewish campsites are forbidden except when they are established on land belonging to Jews and are not located in the vicinity of non-Jewish residences. Hiking by Jewish youth groups of more than 20 is forbidden.

3 April 1936
Appointment as a vet shall be refused if the candidate cannot be an official because of his or his spouse’s ancestry.

22 March 1938
Only honourable racial comrades who, as well as their wives, are citizens of the German Reich of German or kindred blood, can become allotment gardeners.

27 July 1938
If they have not already been so, all streets or lanes named after Jews or half-Jews are to be renamed. Old street signs are to be removed at the same time with the placement of new signs.

The anti-Jewish laws were intended to make life in Germany so uncomfortable that Jews would emigrate. However, by 1938 a growing number of Nazis believed that more radical action was needed to force Jews out of Germany.

HET day 8 picture of boy

Photo: a young German Jewish boy in a garden, 1930s; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ralph Blumenthal

Laws: Joseph Walk (ed.), Das Sonderrecht für die Juden im NS-Staat : eine Sammlung der gesetzlichen Massnahmen und Richtlinien (C.F. Müller, 1981)


forced walks now live!

item provided by Lorna Brunstein and Richard White:
Tuesday 27 January was Holocaust Memorial Day, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. As part of the events we launched Forced Walks: Honouring Esther, a walking arts project. We presented the project concept at 44AD Gallery, Bath, where we will be exhibiting documentation from the walk and new work produced in response to it. Although we are still desperately short of cash, the project is now live:

Over the coming two months the project will develop, generating and connecting local human rights resonances. We are especially keen to hear from veterans of the soldiers who liberated the death camp at Belsen and their descendants, as well as local historians, migrants and exiles interested in this walking witness and creative exploration of exile and belonging.

We walk on April 14 and 15 arriving at the Old Jewish Burial Ground, Coombe Down, Bath, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen by the British Army. We will walk on rights of way as close as possible to the transposed line and conduct interventions where our walk intersects that line. We plan for an intimate participatory and performative walk gathering sounds and images, pausing to reflect and share with the world. We will use smart devices and social networking as well as talk and bits of paper! If this is successful we plan to repeat the walk on its 71st anniversary, in early February on the actual route in Germany.

In order to deliver the project as we imagine it we need drivers and stewards and non walkers to support us on the day, as well as social network users who can actively spread the words and images we will generate. If you would be interested in supporting this project in any way please express your interest on the blog site here, there is a contact form at the bottom of the home page:

We are hugely grateful for support in kind from Bath Spa University and the kindness of many colleagues. If you would like to back the project even by a small amount follow this link:

Donation Page

If you would like to physically join the walk, numbers are strictly limited, so you will need to formally register by following this link:

Walker Registration

Forced Walks image