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Why we must remember the Holocaust

The memory of the Holocaust always fills me with a great sadness at the thought of the immense cruelty and grave injustice from one nation to another over many years. I feel sadder still for the children and grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust because of the memories of such injustice that they have to live with.

HMDcandle_copyright_AnishKapoor_2014_zpsf2e567c1The question I often ask, and it has been asked before is: “Lord, where were you when your children were suffering?” The only answer I receive is that God was there suffering with them.

As a member of the Bristol HMD Steering Group who has attended many meetings in preparation for the annual civic commemoration on Holocaust Memorial Day, this passage expresses the way I feel about what happened:

“The Holocaust showed the depths that humanity can descend to, the power of evil to rule the world and the degree of hatred against the Jews.   Hitler had a plan and his plan was to eliminate all Jews in the ‘Final Solution.’ ”

The best estimate is that between 15 to 20 million people were imprisoned and died in sites controlled by the German State throughout the European Continent; these people were tortured and waiting to be killed in the most atrocious way. It is so sad that there was not much help from other countries. Auschwitz survivor and Nobel peace prize winner Elie Wiesel* once said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

We will never be able to understand fully and feel the horror and cruelty of the Holocaust but we must put all our efforts into keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and pray for a better world.

* When Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a “messenger to mankind,” stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler’s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel had delivered a powerful message “of peace, atonement and human dignity” to humanity.

This article was kindly submitted by Marie Hackett

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Prince of Wales to become Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Patron

Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales will succeed The Queen as Patron of The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. The news comes as The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust prepares to mark the international Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday 27th January. The theme for this year’s event is “Don’t Stand By“.

The official Holocaust Memorial Day website states:

HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales

HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is delighted to announce that The Prince of Wales will succeed The Queen as its Patron. By continuing the charity’s Royal Patronage, His Royal Highness has formalised the support and interest which he has already demonstrated for the work of the charity, as well as the work of organisations that support survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is hugely grateful to Her Majesty for her work as Patron since its inception 10 years ago. During 2015, a significant anniversary year, The Queen visited Bergen-Belsen where she met survivors and liberators of that concentration camp and hosted Holocaust survivors at her Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace in honour of their contributions to Holocaust commemoration in the UK.

The Prince of Wales has a longstanding relationship with the Jewish community and a dedication to remembering those affected by the Holocaust.

The Prince, accompanied by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, attended the official Holocaust Memorial Day UK Commemorative Ceremony in 2015, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Speaking at the ceremony, His Royal Highness said: ‘The Holocaust is an unparalleled human tragedy and an act of evil unique  in history and it is for these reasons that we must always remember it and honour its Jewish victims and the Nazis’ other victims.

…The memory of this suffering and the unspeakable, yet almost incredible, details of the Nazis’ diabolical enterprise can help future generations, wherever they may be, understand not just what happened across Europe, but how this came to happen.’

His Royal Highness has also hosted and attended numerous Kindertransport events, including the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport in 2013. His Royal Highness was also the first member of the Royal Family to attend the installation of the Chief Rabbi, attending the ceremony for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at St John’s Wood Synagogue in North London in 2013.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is the charity, supported by the UK Government, that promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK.

Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated each year on 27 January, and is an opportunity for everybody to reflect on the Holocaust, all forms of Nazi persecution, and the subsequent genocides that took place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said:

‘We are honoured that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has chosen to accept our invitation to succeed The Queen as Patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides are hugely appreciative of The Royal Family’s recognition of the importance of commemorating the dreadful persecution which they endured.’

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West of England Friends of Israel meets with Acting Ambassador Eitan Na’eh

This week, Israel’s acting Ambassador to the United Kingdom addressed students at Bristol University and Bath University. He also met with West of England Friends of Israel.
He spoke about the importance of the relationship between Israel and the UK, and our common goal to achieve peace, fight terror and avoid mass murder of innocents that we have seen on the streets of Israel and Paris. He also spoke of the similarity of goals between ISIS and the NAZIs, attempting to raise their warped view of who should live and die, and murdering people that do not conform to their ideology. In his own words, akin to this year’s Holocaust Memorial Theme: We must not stand by. “Appeasement only allows more innocents to die”.

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We remember Kristallnacht on the International Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism

Kristallnacht 9 November 1938 dont stand by

Kristallnacht 9 November 1938

November 9th marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht. It is also the annual International Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism.

Kristallnacht (night of broken glass) is the name given to the fateful night in 1938 when Nazi hordes ran wild throughout Berlin and many other German cities, smashing windows, looting and destroying Jewish businesses, education centres, homes and synagogues. Jewish houses of worship were desecrated and then set afire. Thousands of Jews were rounded up, some beaten to death, others sent to concentration camps, Jewish artefacts, books and records were destroyed forever.

First-hand accounts of that night grow ever more scarce. 77 years have passed. Many of those arrested or sent directly to concentration camps that night perished in the Holocaust. One such first hand account of Krystallnacht has been published today in the Wall Street Journal by a Mr. Lang:

I will never forget seeing the unimaginable horror of the night and the following day 77 years ago. By luck, my parents were not in Berlin. I was at my grandmother’s. Through the window I could see my beautiful synagogue engulfed in flames as desperate screams rose from the street below. Each knock on our apartment door brought terror, followed by incredible relief. By some miracle, two of my uncles made it to my grandmother’s seeking safety from the savagery of this night.

The next morning as I wandered through my neighborhood, I saw shards of plate glass everywhere, as every Jewish-owned shop had been looted and painted with vile Jew-hating slogans. Uniformed Nazis and their sympathizers were having fun as they surveyed their brutality. One group looked at a large stain on the street that was said to be the blood of a Jew. Even now I can hear their laughter.

Mr Lang was lucky enough to get a place on the Kindertransport and fled Germany. Arriving in the USA in 1940. He point’s out that once again, the world is aware of racially motivated attacks on civilians, just like those the Jews experienced on Kristallnacht. Today, Christians in the Middle East fear the same horrors and fears. Whilst many governments are quick to condemn the horrors playing out in the middle-east, there is little desire to come to their rescue. This makes the 2016 theme of Holocaust Memorial Day even more important. ‘Don’t Stand By’ speaks as much of the world today as it does to the mistakes of the past that allowed The Holocaust to happen.

In another article, this time for Times of Israel, Judy Lash Balint writes about her family’s experience of Kristallnacht and The Holocaust:

On November 9, 1938, my father, Werner Leschziner, 27, was at work at the Handelsbank Ivria in Leipzig. That night he was dragged out of his rented room at Nordplatz 2 and thrown, together with thousands of other Jews, into the Buchenwald concentration camp…

Werner Leschziner, survivor of Kristallnacht & The Holocaust

Werner Leschziner, survivor of Kristallnacht and The Holocaust

My mother’s parents [Avraham and Ida Ehrenreich] fled ahead of the Nazis to Antwerp and then to France, where they were rounded up and sent to a series of camps near the French Pyrenees. Eventually, in August 1942, they were transported by the French national railroad to Drancy and arrived in Auschwitz on September 11 1942. Both then in their 50s, they didn’t survive another day…

…On Kristallnacht 2015, I mark not only the fate of those like my father, who endured but survived Buchenwald, and my grandparents who perished in Treblinka and Auschwitz, but the ongoing injustice and refusal of the guilty nations to acknowledge the suffering and offer up anything resembling meaningful reparations.

So today, on International Day Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a prelude to The Holocaust, known about by Government’s around the world, Government’s who knew of events occurring in pre-war Germany and who stood by,

I urge you to think about the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 and ask one thing of you: Don’t stand by. Do something to educate, inform, remember – every act of memory and commemoration is an act in the name of those that perished in the Holocaust and helps reduce the chance of history repeating itself yet again.

For more information about Bristol Holocaust Memorial Day events, please keep checking our website or like the Bristol HMD Facebook page. Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January every year.

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Behind Enemy Lines by Marthe Cohn – a breath-taking account of Death Camp Avoidance

Behind Enemy Lines Marthe Cohn HoffnungMarthe Hoffnung Cohn is an incredible lady. In her book Behind Enemy Lines she tells “the true story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.” It is a story of love, persecution, triumph of hope through despair and victory over loss. Behind Enemy Lines is a beautifully written personal story of triumph of spirit over adversity in the face of the worst of humanity.

Had Marte been caught or turned in as a Jew, we are only too aware of what would have become of her. That knowledge only makes this story more gripping.

I was privileged to receive a copy of the book in my own quest to find out more about what my grandfather experienced as a British soldier fighting on German soil, but little did I expect to be transported seventy years back in time quite so clearly and vividly. Behind Enemy Lines is an extraordinary piece of work, not least because it reads like a novel. The plot seems so unbelievable that it’s hard to believe that one woman could adapt, survive and prosper in the face of such constant persecution and tyranny.

The characters are brought back to life with such love and detail that you’re drawn back in time, back to Nazi occupied France. Marthe’s story is important in helping remember the plight of Jews and other persecuted people in Nazi-controlled Europe because it provides an accurate and real narrative of what life was like before the camps. It charts the steady decline in human rights and privileges so many of us take for granted today.

The story follows her from her family home in Metz, through to Poitiers and further towards the Spanish border, then to Paris and on into Nazi Germany.  It crosses the challenges of being a Jew and a French nationalist. It tells the challenge of survival, personal growth, life and the struggle to avoid personal defeat and belief in victory over facism. There are so many images of prisoners from the concentration camps and death camps, skeletal living remains of people that had seen their lives and liberties stripped from them, but rarely today do we get to know who they were or where they came from. So many documents have been destroyed, records and memories of communities lost forever, one can hardly imagine from these images a realistic picture or understanding of the lives they once led. Marthe Hoffnung overcame so many trials and tribulations in her quest to live. She never gave up hope, blissfully unaware of the depths of depravity her sister Stephanie must have suffered once imprisoned by the Nazi regime.

Throughout her recollection of events in the early 1940s, it is clear to the reader what must have become of her, yet hope springs eternal. The story is all the more remarkable considering what we know today about how Jews such as Marthe and Stephanie were treated. One thinks of Anne Frank and her sister Margot, there but for the grace of God…

Keeping the memory alive has been the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s theme in 2015 and this grippng account of the life of a young Jewish girl, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend and fiancée not only keeps the memory alive, it brings the reality of that tyrannical and evil time back to life. Behind Enemy Lines by Marthe Cohn is available from Amazon. Please click here to purchase a copy.

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The Queen visits Bergen Belsen

Queen Elizabeth II Visits Bergen Belsen Holocaust Concentration Camp

Image: Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II, a patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, visited the site of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany to pay her respects. More than 50,000 perished at the NAZI camp including Anne Frank and her sister Margot. It is the first time Her Royal Highness has visited a concentration camp. She requested that the visit be added to her four day schedule during a tour of was accompanied by her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Bergen Belsen was liberated in April 1945 by the British 11th Armoured Division. This year has seen the 70 anniversary of the liberation of the concentration and death camps, but as the number who liberated the camps falls, the importance of passing on memories and understanding of the true horror of this European genocide grows.

Rudi Oppenheimer, 83, was sent to the Bergen Belsen camp when he was just 12 years old with his brother Paul and sister Eva. All three survived, though their parents were murdered. He said: “I am lucky because I survived and I was able to put up a gravestone in my parents’ memory, but so many people didn’t survive and no-one remembers them.” He told the Daily Telegraph that he was “thrilled” by the Queen’s visit, adding: “She is the head of the Army, they liberated the camp and they looked after all the inmates. Some of the British soldiers died from typhus as a result and it is important for her to honour them.”

Queen Elizabeth II Duke of Edinburgh Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp Holocause June 2015

Image: Getty Images

With so many thousands perishing at Bergen Belsen, bodies were piled and thrown into mass graves by bulldozers. It is impossible to mark the exact location of graves and many families have erected tombstones at the site. One such memorial is that of Anne Frank and her sister Margot Frank. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh stopped at the memorial to talk to Mr Wagner before taking a reflective walk around the site.

“It must have been horrific,” The Queen said to navy pilot Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, 96, from West Sussex, one of the first British officers to enter its gates on 15 April 1945.

“Utterly, utterly horrific,” he recalled later, with some 10,000 bodies just “littered around” and survivors “dehumanised”, urinating and defecating where they stood or lay. “They had lost all dignity, they were dying, none of them looked as if they would live,” he added in comments to The Guardian.

Throughout the year Holocaust Memorial Trust hold events to commemorate those lost in the Holocaust and educate people about what happened in one of Europe’s darkest times. Please visit our welcome page for more information about Holocaust memorial events in Bristol.

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Born Survivors

Today on the Radio 4 programme, Woman’s Hour, an extraordinary story was shared — that of babies born in Auschwitz and how their mothers survived as well as how the three of them met 65 years later to share tales of their lives under the severest duress.

The programme can be heard here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05tly3h and listen at minute 30. [This segment is preceded by a related story about women in Nepal who struggle to give birth and help their babies survive despite the recent earthquake.]

Born Survivors – Three Mothers and Their Babies Who Survived Auschwitz

In September 1944, three women, Priska, Rachel and Anka arrived in Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi occupied Poland.  Each was about two months pregnant, but when questioned by the Nazi doctor Dr Josef Mengele, each denied the fact, and in doing so, escaped the gas chambers. Each woman endured indescribable cruelty and gave birth in such appalling circumstances it is a miracle that her baby lived. Author Wendy Holden joins Jenni with those three surviving babies – Eva Clarke, Mark Olsky, Hana Berger Moran- to talk about the mothers’ incredible stories of courage,  how the “babies” met for the first time 65-years later at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria for the anniversary of its liberation and how they have become siblings of the heart.

Born Survivors – Three young mothers and their extraordinary story of courage, defiance and survival by Wendy Holden is published by Sphere.

Wendy Holden’s Website

BBC History Page

Auschwitz-Birkenau Official Website

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Eichmann’s End

In 1960, Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina. Eichmann was in charge of implementing the “final solution” to exterminate Jews in the concentration camps. In one seven-week period alone, Eichmann transported 400,000 Hungarian Jews to the gas chambers.

Eichmann was captured through the efforts of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and the Israeli Mossad (Secret Service).

Eichmann was later put on trial in Israel, which was broadcast worldwide and featured the wrenching testimony of many Holocaust survivors. He was charged with 15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people.

The trial was widely followed in the media and was later the subject of several books, including Hannah Arendt‘s work Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Eichmann was convicted and executed by hanging on May 31 1962, the only capital punishment ever carried out in Israel. His body was cremated and ashes scattered at sea, so that no nation would serve as Eichmann’s final resting place.

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H.E.T. leads delegation at Bergen-Belsen Commemorations

Article supplied by the Holocaust Educational Trust and their words entirely

for more about them see www.het.org.uk

Yesterday, the Holocaust Educational Trust led a delegation of over two hundred Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors, students, teachers and Trust supporters to take part in international commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. It was an incredibly moving day and a privilege to be there on what was probably the last significant anniversary of the liberation that we will mark with survivors and liberators still with us in any great number.

We attended a commemoration at the site of the Jewish memorial in Bergen-Belsen where we heard from the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck, and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. We also heard a moving recital of the Jewish memorial prayer led by the Shabbaton Choir in a ceremony also attended by the Duke of Gloucester. This was followed by a service led by the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) alongside Holocaust survivors, dignitaries and delegations from across the world. Approximately 70,000 Jewish people died at Bergen-Belsen from disease, starvation and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis.

British liberator Bernard Levy talks to the Trust’s delegation at Bergen-Belsen
We were delighted to meet Bernard Levy who was one of the British liberators of the camp 70 years ago. What he discovered when he arrived at Belsen shocked and horrified him so much that he only felt able to speak about it 68 years later. It was incredibly powerful to hear from him and our group were fortunate enough to be able to ask him questions. He later met Holocaust survivors Eva Behar and Mala Tribich who expressed their gratitude for all that the liberating British soldiers had done to restore their freedom.
British liberator Bernard Levy meeting Holocaust survivor Eva Behar who was liberated from Bergen-Belsen.

Later, we attended a very moving commemoration at the Jewish cemetery at the British Bergen-Hohne Garrison. The Garrison was originally the site of a Displaced Persons Camp in operation until 1950. The Jewish cemetery is where thousands of people who could not be saved in the weeks following liberation were buried. After 70 years, the British will soon be leaving the site of Bergen-Hohne making this ceremony the last commemoration on this site to be led by the British Army.

After the service, participants wrote messages and laid witnessing stones, a Jewish tradition, on a plaque dedicated to the memory of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on 15th April 1945.

Witnessing stones laid at the Jewish Cemetery at the British Bergen-Hohne Garrison. 
It was a very moving and emotional day and one which we’re sure will stay with all of us for a very long time.
With best wishes,
Karen Pollock MBE
Chief Executive
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remembering Anne Frank

From the collection of poems by Nick Naydler, with paintings by Greg Tricker, entitled For Anne Frank, published by Loxwood Stoneleigh in Bristol in 1991.

‘I hope I shall be able to confide in you’

Into you shall I plunge

I the menagerie of girlhood;

unfurl the chorus of my life —

these secrets let me hurl

upon your white hearing;

I who am schoolgirl and quarry

clown and child, mirror and need.

‘Like a songbird in its cage’

Here do I take this pen

in this my cave of light,

this cage of heaven and hell,

in here unreel my life.I know

what is inside this jail;

this chapel my song is dawnlight;

I must sing.

Poems copywright Nick Naydler

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