Why survivor testimony is at the heart of what we do
The past year has taught us a lot – about who we are as individuals and as humans together. How does eyewitness testimony of darkness in our past help us move forward into the future?
We have had to radically change how we interact over the past year, and here at the Holocaust Exhibition & Learning Centre this has also meant ensuring that our survivor members can continue to tell their stories and spread their message of tolerance and the need for education about prejudice and injustice.
As part of our programme of online events over the past four months, we have hosted three survivor member talks, where they are in conversation with prominent figures about key aspects of their stories and our work. We appreciate all the support we have had for these and our other online talks – we are still learning and appreciate all the feedback we get on them! We record all our online events, and are making these three recordings public to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. Our survivor members’ experiences highlight the need for us to look out for each other, and be the Light in the Darkness for the future.
Our very first online event, on Thursday 1st October 2020, had Rudi Leavor BEM and Dame Louise Ellman sharing their stories of facing antisemitism. Chairing this event was our late Chair, Lilian Black OBE.
On Tuesday 10th November 2020, Holocaust child refugee Dr Martin Kapel was in conversation with Nazir Afzal OBE about what justice is. Martin was born in Germany, but because of his parents’ Polish nationality was never counted as a German citizen by law, and he, his mother and his sister were all forcibly expelled from Germany to Poland by the Nazi regime during the Polenaktion in 1938.
Being a refugee, especially as a child, was and is a traumatic experience. On Thursday 10th December our Head of Collections Dr Tracy Craggs facilitated proceedings as Trude Silman MBE talked about her experiences as a child refugee from the Nazi regime, and we were also joined by Gulwali Passarlay to talk about his more recent experience as an Afghan political refugee, travelling across Europe aged 12 mostly alone.
We had another of these powerful conversational talks scheduled for the beginning of this year, but as the health of our survivors is the most important thing to us we have had to postpone it to enable our survivors to shield. We hope to have another date for it soon, and to have more events like this in the future. Our survivors continue to bravely share their stories – and we are proud that we can now offer survivor talks digitally for any educational group wishing to book. Find out more about our expanding digital programme here.