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Section: Survival and legacy

Legacy and memory

A stained glass memorial inside the Polish national exhibition: ‘The Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Nation 1939-1945’, Auschwitz State Museum, Poland.
A stained glass memorial inside the Polish national exhibition: ‘The Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Nation 1939-1945’, Auschwitz State Museum, Poland. © 2011 Garry Clarkson

In January 2000, 44 governments from around the world met in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, to discuss the importance of Holocaust education, remembrance and research.

Many governments undertook to establish an annual Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD).From 2001, the UK established 27 January as HMD. That date was chosen because that was the date of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.In the UK HMD is concerned with remembering the victims and those whose lives have been changed beyond recognition as a result of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides.

The HMD Trust says “HMD provides us with an opportunity to honour the survivors, but it’s also a chance to look to our own lives and communities today.” In this way we are able to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides.On HMD the different peoples within our communities come together to remember, memorialise and learn. It’s an opportunity for groups or organisations to remember the past and commit to a better future.

HMD can be commemorated individually or collectively. Each year, the HMD Trust announces “a theme for HMD, which provides a focal point and a shared message for the hundreds of events, which take place around the UK”.

Holocaust memorials

There are many memorials around the world to commemorate the Holocaust and remember the victims.

This topic contains a slide show of memorials complete with explanations.

Click on the thumbnails to view the pictures of the memorials. As you move through the pictures you will be able to read a detailed explanation below each one.

The Stockholm declaration

The Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, January 2000
The Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, January 2000

In January 2000, 44 governments from around the world met in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, to discuss the importance of Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Many governments undertook to establish an annual Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD).

Below is the Stockholm declaration:

  • Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust 

    The Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust 

     A conference on education remembrance and research

     

     26-28 January 2000

    We, High Representatives of Governments at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, declare that:

    1. The Holocaust (Shoah) fundamentally challenged the foundations of civilization. The unprecedented character of the Holocaust will always hold universal meaning. After half a century, it remains an event close enough in time that survivors can still bear witness to the horrors that engulfed the Jewish people. The terrible suffering of the many millions of other victims of the Nazis has left an indelible scar across Europe as well.

    2. The magnitude of the Holocaust, planned and carried out by the Nazis, must be forever seared in our collective memory. The selfless sacrifices of those who defied the Nazis, and sometimes gave their own lives to protect or rescue the Holocausts victims, must also be inscribed in our hearts. The depths of that horror, and the heights of their heroism, can be touchstones in our understanding of the human capacity for evil and for good.

    3.With humanity still scarred by genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight those evils. Together we must uphold the terrible truth of the Holocaust against those who deny it. We must strengthen the moral commitment of our peoples, and the political commitment of our governments, to ensure that future generations can understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences.

    4. We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust, both in those of our countries that have already done much and those that choose to join this effort.

    5. We share a commitment to encourage the study of the Holocaust in all its dimensions. We will promote education about the Holocaust in our schools and universities, in our communities and encourage it in other institutions.

    6. We share a commitment to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to honour those who stood against it. We will encourage appropriate forms of Holocaust remembrance, including an annual Day of Holocaust Remembrance, in our countries.

    7. We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust. We will take all necessary steps to facilitate the opening of archives in order to ensure that all documents bearing on the Holocaust are available to researchers.

    8. It is appropriate that this, the first major international conference of the new millennium, declares its commitment to plant the seeds of a better future amidst the soil of a bitter past. We empathize with the victims suffering and draw inspiration from their struggle. Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity’s common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.

Survivors: remembering the Holocaust

Freddie

Freddie was an Austrian Jewish boy born in Vienna, Austria in 1921. During the war he joined the resistance in south west France. Later, Freddie found himself at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Fortunately, he survived his time in the camp and eventually came to live in the UK.

Like many survivors, Freddie did not initially tell people about his experiences.

Simon

Simon was born in 1938, in a town called Radyviliv (pronounced Raji vil of), which was at the time in Poland (now in the Ukraine). The town had a large vibrant Jewish community.

Simon and his family, survived life in the ghetto and on the run. However, many members of his extended family had died.

Ruth

Ruth was born in 1935 in Berlin, Germany to a Jewish father and a Christian mother. As a result, the Nazis classed Ruth as Jewish.

After Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938 Ruth’s family decided that she and her brother, Martin, should be sent to Britain on the kindertransport. Ruth and Martin’s story had many twists and turns, for Ruth the story was not a happy one.

Commemorating the Holocaust

A stained glass memorial inside the Polish national exhibition: ‘The Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Nation 1939-1945’, Auschwitz State Museum, Poland.
A stained glass memorial inside the Polish national exhibition: ‘The Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Nation 1939-1945’, Auschwitz State Museum, Poland. © 2011 Garry Clarkson

In January 2000, 44 governments from around the world met in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, to discuss the importance of Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Many governments undertook to establish an annual Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD).

From 2001, the UK established 27 January as HMD. That date was chosen because that was the date of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In the UK HMD is concerned with remembering the victims and those whose lives have been changed beyond recognition as a result of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides. The HMD Trust says “HMD provides us with an opportunity to honour the survivors, but it’s also a chance to look to our own lives and communities today.” In this way we are able to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides.

On HMD the different peoples within our communities come together to remember, memorialise and learn. It’s an opportunity for groups or organisations to remember the past and commit to a better future. HMD can be commemorated individually or collectively. Each year, the HMD Trust announces “a theme for HMD, which provides a focal point and a shared message for the hundreds of events, which take place around the UK”.

Speak up, Speak Out! Holocaust Memorial Day 2012

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2012 is Speak Up, Speak Out!

During the Holocaust most people did nothing to help the Jews of Europe. However, there are many examples of people actually speaking out and taking action in order to save the lives of Jews; even if this might place their own lives in danger if they had been caught helping Jews.

“Your name is on the list, they are coming for you tomorrow!”

Joan was born to Polish Jewish parents in Brussels, Belgium during 1940. She had an older sister. Within three months of Joan’s birth the German Army invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Very soon the Germans had succeeded in defeating the local armies and occupied the three countries.

Joan’s mother and father decided that the family might be safer if they moved to France to live in Paris with other members of their extended family. However, Joan’s father had been captured, but then escaped and was living in hiding. Joan’s mother and two children remained in Paris.

Each week the family had to register at the local Police Station. On one such occasion Joan’s mother was lining up to register along with her children. However, Joan’s sister was misbehaving and Joan was crying. Joan’s mother was told to take her children outside to calm them down.

On their return to the queue, the actions of a French policeman ‘Speaking Up and Speaking Out’ would serve to save the lives of Joan’s mother and her two children.

Watch the video to learn what the policeman did and how the family survived.

Please note that the lead in may take a few moments to allow the video to begin.

 

HMD 2013 Communities together: Albania

Albania had only 200 Jews before the war. However, the country became a safe haven for Jews and proved refuge for several thousands of Jewish refugees from other countries,

When, in 1943, the Nazis requested from the Albanian authorities a list of the country’s Jews, they refused to comply. The Albanian underground saved the Jews by taking them from towns and cities, giving them false identities and hiding them in the countryside. Some 2000 Jews were saved from Nazi persecution. Albanians gave them clothes, gave them Albanian names, and treated them as part of the family.

The underground resistance warned that anyone who handed over a Jew to the Nazis would be executed.

The protection of Jews in Albania continued to be a priority for the local population even after the occupation of the country by the Nazis in 1943, after the controlling Italian forces capitulated to the Germans.

Why did Albania succeed in saving the Jews when all other countries failed?

The Albanian people live by a code of honour known as ‘besa’. Besa is a uniquely Albanian concept that says a guest in one’s home must be protected at all costs. As the Jewish refugees were ‘guests’ within Albanian borders, the citizens of Albania were duty bound to protect them.

HMD 2014: Journeys

The Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 theme is ‘Journeys’

During the Holocaust many people made journeys to escape the Nazis, whilst others were forced to make journeys to the various ghettos or camps across Nazi occupied Europe.

Journeys of escape

Often those who escaped did so under disguise; using false identities and false papers to unfamiliar surroundings. Many were helped by people they had never met. These include over 10,000 children who escaped the threat of the Nazis between December 1938 and September 1939 (Click here to learn more about the Kindertransport). Others were fortunate to be taken into hiding; often in poor conditions, with little food, but at great risk to their saviours.

Forced journeys

However, for many forced journeys within Nazi occupied Europe ended in death. The Nazis systematically employed the existing transport infrastructure and resources in order to transport individuals, families and even whole communities to ghettos and camps. Millions of Jews and others were forcibly taken from their homes, transported on cattle trucks for days, in terrible conditions with no food, water or sanitary provision. They were transported to places of which they had no knowledge. During these frightening journeys many thousands died; the living crammed in next to those who succumbed to the terribly inhumane conditions.

The death marches

Towards the end of the war, the Nazis force-marched thousands of Jewish prisoners from camps in the East towards others in Germany. During their torturous journeys, now known as death marches many succumbed to cold, hunger and disease. Others, who were unable to keep up or who fell ill by the wayside, were killed by their Nazi captors.

Survival and journeys home

For those who survived, liberation led to a need to rebuild life. Many hundreds of thousands of refugees journeyed across post-war Europe in search of their loved ones and the homes they had been forced to leave behind. At the end of their journey many of those returning home found that neighbours or other opportunists had claimed their homes and possessions. For some, returning home ended in death at the hands of those who had once been neighbours.

Survival and journeys to a new life

The many hundreds of thousands of survivors who had lost entire families made journeys to build lives in new countries across the world. For these ‘stateless’ refugees, endless queues and waiting for visas marked the beginning of their journey. Arriving in new countries, building a new life and a new home as an alien presented many emotional and practical difficulties.

HMD 2015: Keep the memory alive

The Dreese Family: Keeping the memory alive

27 January 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is, therefore, particularly appropriate that the theme for this major anniversary year focuses on memory.

Keep the memory alive‘ is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2015.

Since January 2011, The Holocaust Explained website has provided school students with many resources that help keep the memories of the Holocaust alive.

The Holocaust Explained is honoured to be able to share the story of the Dreese family, a very normal Jewish family living in Amsterdam during the 1920s and 1930s. Watch and listen to the four videos. View the original documents and photographs in context.

Learn about the events witnessed and experienced by the Dreese family. Like so many living under German occupation, the family suffered great injustices at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Discover and appreciate the concerns raised by their relatives in the UK. Learn how they sought to enable their loved ones to escape the Nazis, and how they also attempted to reduce the Dreese’s suffering throughout the war.

For many people we will never know the details, as a result their memories will sadly fade into history.

However, as we do have access to key documents and photographs of the Dreese family we can gain an insight into the events of their lives within Nazi occupied Netherlands. The Holocaust explained website is a way of keeping these documents, photographs and memories in one place and also providing access to them.

In this way, it plays a key part in helping the Dreese family’s descendants keep their memories alive. We are so grateful to them for allowing us to use these original documents and images.

Part One

This is the Dreese family, a happy, normal Jewish family living in the Netherlands during the 1920s and 1930s.

Part Two

The Second World War began in September 1939. Learn how the German invasion of Europe caused concern for the Dreese family’s relatives living in the UK.

Part Three

The Dutch civil service and the Nazis established many anti-Jewish laws. How did these actions affect the Dreese family?

Part Four

Discover what happened to the Dreese family in occupied Europe.

DID YOU KNOW...

Help us to keep the memory alive

By watching the videos, reflecting on them and sharing the stories you too can help us to ‘Keep the memory alive’.

Please share this webpage with your fellow students, family and friends. You may wish to do this by using the social networking share buttons below. (Please, remember to use social networking safely and appropriately.)

There are many millions of Holocaust and genocide victims whose stories are yet to be told. Indeed, you may know of personal stories within your own family. Your parents, grandparents or relatives may have documents, photographs and stories that have not yet been shared with the world. Only by enquiring, researching and sharing these stories will we be able to ‘Keep the memories alive’.

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity that promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day across the UK. HMDT coordinates many hundreds of events across the UK. Other countries also have thier national remebrance organisations. You will find these very easily by using your chosen search engine.

Click to visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s HMD 2015 page

HMD 2017: How can life go on?

Friday, 27 January, 2017 is the day that the world will commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). The theme for HMD 2017 is: How can life go on?

The Holocaust and other genocides raise challenging questions for individuals, communities and nations.

HMD 2017 asks audiences to think about what happens after genocide and our own responsibilities in the wake of such crimes against humanity.

The late Author and survivor of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel said:

‘For the survivor death is not the problem. Death was an everyday occurrence. We learned to live with Death. The problem is to adjust to life, to living. You must teach us about living.’

DID YOU KNOW...

Moving forward

Many survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides have used the arts as a method to cope, live and come to terms with their experiences.

By drawing images, writing or making music that include their memories and experiences, they are able to move on in their lives.

Before they began to talk about their experiences, many Holocaust survivors kept what they had witnessed and felt during the events of the Holocaust inside their minds.

However, once they did begun to share their ‘testimonies’, many survivors began to feel a sense of release and relief

By telling their story, survivors were also able to help others understand what survivors had experienced. They are also able to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

HMD 2018: The Power of Words

A Command /// When the snow melts outside in the groves/ And the pine trees bend low and weep,/ Stop walking for I have a feeling/ That I’m not alone. // Is it the touch of the wind/ That moves the blades of grass,/ That whispers in the air/ And breathes on me?// The sweet sound of harps,/ The shadow of ghostly feet/ – Greetings from the souls of the dead/ Hover along the path.//  Can our senses make judgments/ Why you encroach with insistence?/ “All that has happened to us,/ You shall never forget!”  Munich, 7 April 1947  Translated by Bea Green.
A Command /// When the snow melts outside in the groves/ And the pine trees bend low and weep,/ Stop walking for I have a feeling/ That I’m not alone. // Is it the touch of the wind/ That moves the blades of grass,/ That whispers in the air/ And breathes on me?// The sweet sound of harps,/ The shadow of ghostly feet/ – Greetings from the souls of the dead/ Hover along the path.// Can our senses make judgments/ Why you encroach with insistence?/ “All that has happened to us,/ You shall never forget!” Munich, 7 April 1947 Translated by Bea Green. Poem 'Auftrag' (A Command) by Gerty Spies from The Wiener Library's collection of eyewitness testimony accounts. Doc 1656/4/1/904. Translated by Bea Green.

The Power of Words

The theme for UK Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 is ‘The Power of Words‘, focusing on how language has been used in the past, and how it is used in the present day. The UK Holocaust Memorial Day Trust encouraged participating events across the country, held on or around the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945, to focus on the impact that words had in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, through propaganda used to incite, through slogans written in resistance, and through memoirs written to record and respond to what was going on. The words that we see and hear all around us today – in newspapers, online, in conversations – the words that we choose to use, all have an impact upon us and those around us.

Testifying to the Truth

Over the past six years The Wiener Library has been working on a major project to translate testimonies from survivors into English. We called this project ‘Testifying to the Truth’ to reflect the urgent wish of the survivors that the truth that they had experienced should never be lost and never be forgotten. We all have a duty to listen, and to remember. When we hear voices of human beings suffering, even if they are not speaking in our own language, we must work hard to understand these words, to translate them faithfully, and to pass them on to others.

One of the testimonies we have translated is the account and poems of the remarkable author Gerty Spies, who survived the war despite being arrested and deported by the Nazis. In 1947, two years after her liberation, she published a collection of poems simply entitled Theresienstadt.

Theresienstadt was the German name for the garrison-town of Terezín, near Prague. This garrison-town was turned by the Nazis into a ghetto. You can learn more about Nazi ghettos on this website, including Theresienstadt, which was used as a place of imprisonment for tens of thousands of Jews from Germany, the Czech lands and many other parts of Europe, prior to their deportation to extermination camps further East.

Gerty Spies escaped deportation to Auschwitz in part because her work detail in a mica factory was essential for the German military supplies. At times throughout the war she was deployed in the packing room, where she was able to obtain scraps of brown paper to write her poems. For Gerty the ability to write and hide away her words was quite simply a matter of life and death. She testifies in her account to rare occasions when had the opportunity to write on the brown pieces of paper she had gathered, describing these moments as ‘Tiny speckles of calm in the dance of death that was Theresienstadt’.

At The Wiener Library’s Holocaust Memorial Day event, we were pleased to be able to present new English versions of Gerty Spies’s poems, including Auftrag (A Command) and ‘Was der Geschichte Feuerstift’ (‘The history etched with fiery pen’) translated by Bea Green:

The history etched with fiery pen
In writing that can’t be erased
Firmly buried, deep in your heart –
Even deep oceans of oblivion –
However profound, could never drown –
That painful scar you’ll always carry.

It is that scar that is a warning
As are your tears and all that pain
That you suffered with dark disdain.
Now be alert and act at once!
Should you see disaster approach again –
It’s nothing new – it’s up to you.

Munich around 1946

Translated by Bea Green

DID YOU KNOW...

Bea Green's translations for Testifying to the Truth

Kindertransportee Bea Green volunteered to work as a translator for The Wiener Library’s Testifying to the Truth project back in 2013. Bea Green was eight years old when Hitler came to power at the end of January 1933. Bea’s family survived: her brother came to England in January 1939; she came here on the Kindertransport at the end of June 1939. Her parents got to Peru in 1940 going east on the Trans-Siberian Railway and then by boat from Kobe in Japan across the Pacific.

Bea has been sharing her extraordinary story across the UK and internationally for many years. Bea is a published translator with a brilliant mind for languages. Even now, at the age of 92, she continues to speak in schools, especially around Holocaust Memorial Day. When Bea was assigned to work on the poems of Gerty Spies, she wrote back to the Library on being given the task, astonished: ‘I too am from Munich, just like Gerty!’ Unlike Gerty, however, Bea did not return to Munich until many years after the war was over.

Bea Green's translations for Testifying to the Truth

Bea Green (right) photographed at the age of fourteen leaving Munich on the Kindertransport, 1939.

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What happened to the survivors?

What happened to the survivors?