Natasha Kaplinsky this week spoke of how discovering the fate of family members murdered in the Shoah will forever “haunt” her as she launched an essay competition to find a young member of a commission examining what more Britain could do to remember the Holocaust.
The broadcaster unveiled the contest for 16-21-year-olds as part of David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission, which was launched at Downing Street last month. Hollywood actress Helena Bonham-Carter, senior figures from the three main parties, the Chief Rabbi and Kaplinsky are part of the commission, chaired by the JLC’s Mick Davis, which is accepting evidence from the public until May, before delivering its recommendations to the premier at the end of the year.
They will be joined be the essay contest winner to be chosen by survivor and nobel laureate Elie Wiesel from six entrants selected to take part in a forum at Number 10. Youngsters are being asked to write on why it’s important to remember the Holocaust and how can to ensure future generations don’t forget – reflecting the task facing the commission itself.
Launching the competition during a session of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s regional ambassadors on Monday, Kaplinsky said discovering the the horrors suffered by her family in Poland during filming for BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are – which included the killing of young children – continue to haunt her today.
She felt being part of Cameron’s initiative was a “responsibility I have. Finding out everything I did gave me a real sense of my own history and that of my family and where we fit in in the world. This is the most extraordinary initiative and I’m so thankful to the prime minister that he’s taking the issue so seriously because time is running out. We’ve got a limited period of time to hear from survivors of the horror they witnessed”.
She added: “As a parent myself I’m now wondering how much and at what point you introduce the horror of what happened. I think five and three is too young but at some point it’s going to be a very important part of their education. This whole process is about that.”
Cameron said the six chosen to take part in the forum would have “an incredibly important task”. Asked what they would say to him about the key requirements for Holocaust remembrance during this week’s meeting – which was addressed by survivor Gena Turgel – was accessibility to all and that the magnitude of the genocide is reflected without overlooking specific human stories. While the presenter said the commissioners remain open-minded, she suggested that one outcome “might be something virtual” to reflect the modern way people receive and spread information.
Wiesel said: “We must ensure that no one can ever say the Holocaust belongs to the past. Prime Minister Cameron’s Holocaust Commission will help Britain remember, it is vital young people play a role in this task.”
Law student Jack Austin, who as an ambassador has sought to teach other young people about the horrors after visiting Auschwitz with HET, plans to enter the contest. Having visited the memorial in Miami as a child “which had a real impact on me”, he believes a public memorial that would be seen by millions including tourists should be a priority.
“If you’re educating about the Holocaust you’re not only educating about this horrific event but about the dangers of intolerance and racism and encouraging a more tolerant society.” He stressed the importance of promoting British-Israeli relations, saying that the Jewish state would have been Hitler’s “worst nightmare”.
HET CEO Karen Pollock: “This is an exciting opportunity for young people to shape how the UK will remember the Holocaust in years to come. They represent the generation who will pass on the memory of the Holocaust even when there are no eyewitnesses left to do so, and they have an important voice to be heard.”
The closing date is 30 May. For further information, click on engage.number10.gov.uk/holocaust-commission-competition