Thursday, 26 January 2012

Holocaust Memorial Day

This is the blog I wrote to go with our library display:

It is Holocaust Memorial Day tomorrow and we have set up a display in the library to mark this. The theme this year is Speak Up, Speak Out and the emphasis is not just on remembering the terrible events of the genocide of Jews and others under the Nazi regime, but to be aware of current events happening around the world.  The books selected are a mixture of factual history, biography, and responses such as photography, plays, novels and graphic novels. Please browse these, they give different and thought provoking pictures of events.
The two photography books are subtle, not depicting the horrors of concentration camps and death but rather the impact of past events on the present: A feeling of absence, empty rail tracks leading to the gates of a deserted death camp; A pleasant suburban German street whose name records the ghost of the people who once lived there.
There are two books about Anne Frank, firstly her famous diary and secondly a collection of photographs depicting a lively teenager living in hiding up until their betrayal. . I have also included Schlindlers’ Ark, the film of which everyone should see, and The Girl in the Red Coat the account of one of Schlindler’s rescued Jews.
I have included two novels, even though I always feel slightly uncomfortable about the idea of fiction based on such stark real events.  It seems slightly wrong, as if the stories are being stolen from those who really own them. However, the Boy in Striped Pyjamas is worth reading. It captures the terrible innocence and vulnerability of childhood in clashing contrast to the evil madness of genocide. 
The plays include one called Kinder transport which makes my blood run cold. The terrible sacrifice of parents knowing their own situation was hopeless, packing their kids off on trains across Europe with sweet lies. “You’re going on Holiday, we will join you later, don’t worry.” How could the world let this happen? I saw the statue at Liverpool Street Station recently. I used to know a sweet old lady who used to send lovely presents to the children, she was a Kinder Transport orphan.
I also included 2 graphic novels: Maus and V for Vendetta which show a different reaction to events. V having become a bit of a rallying point for the anti-globalisation and occupy movement in recent months although it is based on a dystopian world in which the Nazi party wins.
When I was a teenager (it is possible) I took a gap year before university and spent some time in Israel working on a Kibbutz. I met elderly concentration camp survivors and was befriended by a Dutch couple. The man had escaped capture because although living in Holland when it was invaded, he had a British passport. So instead of being murdered as a Jew, he was interned as an enemy alien. This saved his life although he had the terrible awareness of knowing what was happening to everyone else while he was safe in internment. Whilst in Israel I visited the Yad Vashim Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem and was shocked by the accounts of boatloads of Jewish refugees being turned away by allied ports and having to return to certain death in Germany.
It is impossible to underestimate the horrors which humankind is capable of. It is also impossible to underestimate the courage and self-sacrifice which is possible. Another book on the display is Corrie-Ten Boom’s Hiding Place which tells the true story of a courageous Christian Dutch family who sheltered and helped many refugees to escape before being betrayed themselves.
There are also a wealth of Ebooks available, just write Holocaust in the library catalogue (OPAC) and click on them and follow the instructions.
Finally, the message of HMD 2012 is clear. Be prepared to Speak up and Speak out against injustice and inequality where ever we see it.
Books Used:
Boyne, John – the Boy in Stripped Pyjamas
Langham T Anne Frank - Beyond the Diary
 Ten Boom, Corrie The hiding place
Samuels, Diane, Kindertransport
Pascal, Julia The holocaust trilogy
Hiller, Susan; The J. Street Project, 2002-2005
Norfolk, Simon; Ignatieff, Michael For most of it I have no words : genocide - landscape -memory
Spiegelman, Art;The complete Maus
Keneally, T Schindler’s Ark

Moore, Alan; Lloyd, David (ill) V for Vendetta

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