Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors’ Conference

Written by Megan Parkinson, Year 13 student and Head Girl

Discussion of the Holocaust is usually a morbid and taboo topic as many people find it distressing to acknowledge the barbaric cruelty that was inflicted upon Jewish citizens during the Second World War. It is often difficult to talk about as people are afraid to offend by using the wrong language or terms, not knowing if they have enough knowledge or understanding to be able to comment appropriately. However if there is one message that I took away from attending the Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors’ Conference on the 6th of July it was that, ”we must keep talking, or else they will win”. The ominous ‘they’ of course being Nazis or Neo-Nazis or Holocaust deniers or any other individual or group that would promote genocide.

At the conference I and the other 300 attendees were fortunate to receive Mala Tribich’s testament of her experiences through the Holocaust. She was held captive at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany. By the time she was liberated in 1945 by British troops, she had lost her mother, father, sister and cousin. Her brother Ben also survived the Holocaust, but they remained separated for several years. Mala spoke about life in the Ghetto and the fear of deportation and liquidation. When mentioning the way she lost her mother and younger sister, (marched out into the December woods, shot and then dumped in a mass grave) tears formed in her eyes and her voice strained. It is not difficult to understand why. Even after all these years she is still strangled by the memories.

Alongside Mala’s testament we were also given an insight into the mind of a liberator. Bernard Levy was a British soldier who was only 19 when he helped to liberate the prisoners at Bergen Belsen. He remembered being able to smell the camp before he could see it and witnessing the decrepit skeletal forms of prisoners running towards him, desperate to be released. The camp was rife with disease and many of the prisoners were so weak that even after liberation they died because they had been exposed to such horrific conditions. Bernard is now 88 years old and spoke about the liberation for the first time publically at the conference.

Throughout the rest of the day we received other inspiring and moving talks from professionals from all areas of life. A presentation on who participated in the persecution and why Nazism came to prominence in Germany delivered by Laurence Rees was particularly interesting. Mr Rees has produced several award winning documentaries about Auschwitz, Hitler and the Holocaust, and in his presentation he included several extract displaying former Nazis answering thought provoking questions on their involvement with genocide. It was overwhelming to learn that many of the participants felt no regret, remorse or shame for their actions.

Later on in the day there was a panel discussion between the attendees,. Film-maker Rex Bloomstein, forensic archaeologist Dr Caroline Sturdy-Colls, Professor of Literature Bob Eaglestone and The Times journalist Hugo Rifkind debated representations of the Holocaust in which it was questioned if film representations and literature about the Holocaust could ever accurately portray the horrors that befell the victims. Needless to say this became a heated debate and professor Eaglestone voiced some very interesting opinions on The Boy in the striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne.

Nick Robinson, the BBC Political Editor, ended the day by informing the attendees that it was their duty to keep talking about the Holocaust and tell the stories of the people who will never be able to tell them, themselves. “You are messengers… You are the messengers for the 6 million people who could never tell their story. What makes you special is you’re not just pausing to think never again but you are making sure that it won’t happen again.”

I am honoured that I was able to attend this conference and I encourage anyone else to attend next year. It was full of intelligent and wonderful topics, issues and people, who all shared the common interest in respecting and remembering the victims who died, and preventing any action so abominable from ever occurring again.

Posted by marchesadmin on 9th October 2015, under Uncategorized

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