Holocaust Memorial 2019 – Torn From Home
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was marked in the national media with reports of increasing anti-Semitism and widespread Holocaust denial. The purpose of this commemorative day feels more pertinent than ever – how can such ignorance and prejudice be challenged? Raising awareness of the Holocaust is becoming ever challenging; with every passing year there are fewer survivors of this atrocity to humanise the event with their recollections and wisdom. At Vandyke we are committed to teaching every student the lessons from these events to promote tolerance and understanding.
Our very existence, our sense of belonging, is intertwined with the concept of home. Yet it was one of the first cruelties the Nazis exacted on the Jews of Europe by denying them this place. First the Nuremberg Laws stripped away the German citizenship, stating that Germany was no longer home for Jewish people. Second, their identity – with the imposition of the names Sarah and Israel onto Jews with non-Jewish names – was removed. The physical place of home was disallowed with the deportation of millions of Jews from Germany, and the rest of Nazi occupied Europe – initially to the ghettos and then the extermination camps based in Eastern Europe.
Finally, when no physical home exists, ultimately it is the people you love who are the embodiment of it. Arrival at camps such as Auschwitz saw brutal separation: child torn from mother, husband from wife, father from son. Families divided and organised into units of labour and waste. If selected for work prisoners were refused any dignity or comfort. Survivors all have a common experience: they emerged from the atrocity alone. Child survivors were adopted by local families and grew up far from their home. Some survivors returned home, only to be driven away by memories, loneliness and betrayal.
‘Torn from Home’ was a highly emotive theme which inspired a series of assemblies delivered by Mrs Moore and Mrs Akers-Jarvis. The History team and our students have been privileged enough to meet survivors of the Holocaust, and this experience has always been a sincere inspiration. Every survivor of the Holocaust endured true suffering, which did not end in 1945 because the vast majority of their families and friends perished in the Nazi death camps. This has often been the revelation from meeting survivors – students are aware of the crimes committed by the Nazis, but were less comprehending of the lifetime of loss faced by these individuals as a result. Without the living reminder of such inhumanity, it is fundamental that we continue to recollect their suffering and their wisdom to prevent further brutality.
Team Leader of History