‘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.’ Exceptional words from an exceptional human being, Elie Wiesel, Romanian born, American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor.
Olivia and Prune in Y13 led our Holocaust Memorial Day assembly and encouraged us to humanise the statistics. Looking at the senior school assembly of, say, 900 people, you would have to see a new group of 900 people twice a week, every week for 65 years in order to picture the number of people killed: 6 million.
Prune said, “This year’s theme of remembering asks questions: why is it important in helping life go on? How do we remember when there is no one left to tell the story? We are the last generation to have the privilege to be able to hear first-hand testimonies from the survivors themselves.”
Olivia drew parallels with today’s persecution of victims in Syria. “4.8 million people have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq and 6.6 million are internally displaced within Syria. About 1 million have requested asylum to Europe.”
“When we reflect on the Holocaust, we vow that never again will we let it happen, but the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Holocaust is happening now,” said Prune. She flagged up three of the charities with whose appeals we could get involved: Save The Children’s Child Refugee Crisis, British Red Cross and Refugee Council Crisis.
Olivia and Prune referenced the inspirational work of other survivors including Susan Pollack and Freda Wineman, whom some of us have been privileged to meet at JAGS. The final, uplifting words we heard were from Holocaust survivor John Fieldsend, reading aloud a letter from his parents. “We too won’t be spared and will go bravely into the unknown with the hope that we shall yet see you again when God wills." John was only seven when he boarded the Kindertransport. "As the train was leaving my mother took her wristwatch off, passed it through the window and simply said, 'remember us'."
#Iremember – it’s the least we can do.