AUSCHWITZ ANNIVERSARY: Holocaust Survivors – ‘Help us keep the memory alive’

AUSCHWITZ ANNIVERSARY: Holocaust Survivors – ‘Help us keep the memory alive’

Special  issue edited by our panel of Holocaust survivors:

Harry Bibring, Hannah Lewis, Gena Turgel MBE and Ben Helfgott MBE

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 10.50.08We are delighted to be guest editors of today’s unique edition of the Jewish News, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This issue of the newspaper is our opportunity to showcase our views and stories with you.

We – Ben, Gena, Hannah and Harry – have thought long and hard about the issues and features we wanted to share. How can we – Holocaust survivors and refugees – put into just one issue everything that we want to impart to you?

The answer is, we can’t. What we hope we have done is given you an insight into some of the things that the survivor community is debating, considering and concerned about in 2015 – the 70th anniversary of our liberation.

We are often invited to share our personal story with young people from all backgrounds in schools and colleges, but we are not always able to share our experiences with the Jewish community in the same way. Jewish News’s brave decision to hand over editing of today’s edition is a fantastic opportunity for us to share our thoughts with you.

We have decided to move away from the horrors of the Holocaust and instead focus on the contributions the survivor community has made to society since arriving in Britain. We want to look at how the Holocaust will be remembered when we are no longer here, a subject Gena discusses on pages 10 and 11 with three generations of her family over slices of her famous apple strudel – the recipe for which she shares with readers.


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Elsewhere in this issue, Ben, along with survivors Harry Olmer, Harry Spiro and Dorit Oliver-Wolff, speak about the achievements of Holocaust survivors in Britain since 1945. We also wanted to hear the opinions of young people on why they think it’s important that the Holocaust is remembered and how it will be taught in the future, so Harry visited a school to host a roundtable discussion with students. Finally, watching

The Eichmann Show on BBC2 led Hannah to reflect on her own memories of watching this watershed event on television in 1961. It has been an important experience for all of us to move away from the suffering and the horror to reflect together on how much survivors across the country have achieved since the end of the war.

It reminds us that we are more than our experience, we are survivors but we are also parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and members of a strong and vibrant community. It has been a privilege to work with the various contributors on this edition.

From Rabbi Marcus, who is a great source of inspiration to so many students visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, and to so many in our own community, to Tony Blair as well as Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron. We are overwhelmed by the support we have received.

This support is all the more important to us given that when we first arrived in Britain after the Holocaust we had nothing; no one seemed interested in what had happened to us.

Many survivors only began speaking in schools years after we were liberated and we feel like we have a lot of catching up to do. From the reactions, questions and letters from the students we meet, we know that we are helping to bring about greater understanding of the complexities of this history and of the individual moral choices which shape a society.

We also recognise that ours are the minority stories. Most of those who experienced the Holocaust first-hand did not live to tell their tale. And so we speak on their behalf, because we know that is what our families, friends and neighbours would have wanted. We know that we will not be speaking to young people forever.

There will come a time when we grow too old, too few, and the legacy of the Holocaust will need to fall to others. We are now working to make sure that when that time comes, we have done what we set out to do – to make sure that as many young people as is physically possible have heard us speak, and have felt a connection to our stories. We want in the future to be remembered, not just as survivors, but as the last fragments of our communities.

We are the children, brothers and sisters of victims, and when we are gone, we want someone to remember them, too.

Sometimes we ask what will happen in the years to come. We have to rely on you, our readers today, to help to ensure that our memories thrive in the community. But we also have to go beyond the community. We have to hope that the young people we speak to today become the leaders of tomorrow. We hope that by hearing our stories they will feel passionate about the Holocaust and the importance of our legacy.

Our hope is that these seeds we have planted will bring plants, which will grow into bushes, which will grow into trees and finally forests, which will thrive for generations. This is our inspiration.

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