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Holocaust Memorial Day 2010


Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January 2010

Today is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and it offers
us a chance to hear the stories of Holocaust survivors directly from them, before it is too late. The numbers
of survivors who have built their lives, communities and families here in the UK are inevitably diminishing,
and, as they become frail, their thoughts are turning to future remembrance and the preservation of their
memory.

This is where you come in.
We’re asking you to take their messages to your colleagues, to your communities, to your friends and your
families. We’re asking you to ask people to become part of the Legacy of Hope.


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We also remember today the last remaining survivor of Anne Frank’s helpers. Miep Gies died earlier this
month, aged 100. She was the secretary of Anne’s father, Otto. When Anne and her family went into
hiding in Amsterdam in 1942, Otto asked her to help. She did not hesitate. Miep was not Jewish: she
was not even Dutch – she was born in Austria in 1909, and had moved to the Netherlands aged 11.
However, Miep and her husband Jan organized ration coupons and food for the family, and visited the
secret annexe regularly. By doing so, they put their lives at risk.

When the Frank family were arrested in 1944, Miep took Anne’s diary and kept it safe for posterity.
The diary of Anne Frank has now been translated into over 70 languages and is one of the best-
selling books ever.
Miep once said “I’m not a hero. I simply did what I could to help”. Miep received honours from the
Israeli, German, Dutch and Austrian governments. Without Miep, we would not have learnt of Anne
Frank and her diary.



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The Legacy of Hope this year aims to remember some of those who did not survive – but whose
writings remain to this day as a legacy for our generation.
We concentrate today on the Warsaw Ghetto, where 500,000 Jewish people were forced to live
behind walls and fences in an area of less than 4 kilometres. By early 1942, 83,000 people had died
from starvation, and another 300,000 were deported to death camps by the summer of that year.
To put these figures into context, the Scottish national football stadium at Hampden Park holds
50,000 people: and the population of the town of Kilmarnock is currently approximately 44,700.

Whilst the Warsaw Ghetto was being starved into submission, however, a group of academics,
artists, teachers and students began to record their feelings, details of their everyday lives, and
their hopes. The group, which called themselves “Oneg Shabbat” or “Sabbath Delight”, began to
write of soup kitchens, faith, poverty, death and fear, but also of continuing education, political
debates, marriages, and artists.

During the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943, the leaders of Oneg Shabbat realized that the end
was near. They arranged for their writings to be buried in metal milk churns and tins – and that
no-one should know of the position of more than two of these deposits. After the uprising, the
Nazis liquidated the Ghetto, and most of the members of Oneg Shabbat were killed. After the war,
however, some of these tins were found, and more were unearthed in 1950; however it is believed
that still more still lie undiscovered.

From the records we have recovered, we find personal messages from a lost generation to our-
selves. Israel Lichtenstein asks us to remember those he loved, including his wife Gele, who was
an artist and a kindergarten, or nursery school teacher. He also says “I wish for my little daughter
to be remembered. Margalit is twenty months old today”.
18 year old Nahum Grzwacz’s plea is simple. “He says “I don’t know what is going to happen to me.
Remember my name is Nahum Grzwacz.”

David Gruber, one of the people who buried memories in milk churns, speaks to us. He says “What
we are unable to shriek out to the world we bury in the ground. So the world may know all. So the
ones who do not live through it all may be glad, and we may feel like veterans with medals on our
chests. May our treasure fall into good hands...may history attest for us”.
Israel, Gele, Margalit, Nahum and David did not survive – but their requests to us are simple. We
are asked to remember the prisoners of the ghetto, to re-tell their story, and to challenge injustice,
prejudice, discrimination and exclusion in whatever form we find it.

Please stand for a minute's silence to remember Miep Gies, who was Anne Frank’s friend, and also
to remember Israel, Gele, Margalit, Nahum and David.



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We finish today with our customary reading from Elie Wiesel’s poem “Night”.

MEN TO THE LEFT! WOMEN TO THE RIGHT!
EIGHT WORDS SPOKEN QUIETLY, INDIFFERENTLY, WITHOUT EMOTION.
I WAS PARTING FROM MY MOTHER FOREVER,
“DO YOU SEE THOSE FLAMES? OVER THERE?
THAT’S WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO BE TAKEN.
THAT’S YOUR GRAVE OVER THERE. HAVE YOU REALIZED IT YET?”

I PINCHED MY FACE, WAS I ALIVE?
WAS I AWAKE?
I LOOKED TO MY DAD
I TOLD HIM I DID NOT BELIEVE THEY COULD BURN PEOPLE IN OUR DAY AND AGE.
HUMANITY WOULD NOT TOLERATE IT.
HE LOOKED AT ME, HIS VOICE WAS CHOKING.
“HUMANITY? HUMANITY IS NOT CONCERNED WITH US.
TODAY, ANYTHING IS ALLOWED.”

NEVER SHALL I FORGET THAT NIGHT.
THE FIRST NIGHT IN CAMP.
NEVER SHALL I FORGET THAT NOCTURNAL SILENCE.









Stephen King, School Librarian