A Holocaust survivor is to loan the University of Huddersfield a number of personal possessions for its new £1 million Holocaust Heritage and Learning Centre.

Heinz Skyte, now in his 90s, narrowly escaped the atrocities of Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) in 1939, and has since described his memories of torch-wielding Nazis lining the streets, burning synagogues. His father was sent to Dachau.

One of the documents he has loaned the University is a letter from his wife’s headmaster, written in 1938, when she was a young girl, banning her from the school, solely based on her Jewish faith.  

Another is a heartfelt note from his mother to her parents at the time they were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where they died just two weeks later. 

“To the visitors who come here, this is perhaps just history, but to me it is my life.  It is very important for me to share some personal items with the centre, as they are evidence for the events of the Holocaust,” said Skyte. 

Heinz Skyte’s Holocaust possessions

“These items don’t just teach people of what happened, but of how genocide, in all its horror, quickly becomes acceptable to so many.”

The Centre is backed by Lottery funding and supported by the Pears Foundation, the Association of Jewish Refugees, the Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association and the University, with local firms also providing funding. 

Heinz Skyte

Simon Jackson, a past president of the Leeds Jewish Representative Council and current head of commercial property at Shulmans, a law firm which has helped pay for it, said recording the details of eye witnesses still with us was “vitally important”. 

He added: “Whilst having a considerable amount of understanding and knowledge of events prior to getting involved in this project, working with the team has been an enlightening process.”

Emma King, the Centre’s director, said: “We must capture these accounts and preserve them, to ensure they are not lost forever. Meeting Heinz has been incredibly humbling and adds priceless detail to our archive collection.”