Sunday, 15 November 2015

New publication tells Holocaust stories of Lancaster families

A new publication being launched this month in Lancaster and distributed to schools throughout Lancashire will provide a chance for young people to find out the extent of the involvement of people from this district with the Holocaust.

From Generation to Generation: The Impact of the Holocaust in the Lancaster District has been edited by Fiona Frank and will be launched on Wednesday 18th November at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. All are welcome.

In this publication, supported by funding from Awards for All, Judith, Alison, Naomi, Wlodek, Bob, Diana, Jo and Pete – who all live in the Lancaster district or close by – talk about how the lives of their parents and grandparents were changed forever by the Nazis, and how those experiences have affected the way they look at the world.

Holocaust Memorial Day has been commemorated in the Lancaster District since 2001. Over the last 15 years at these events, many people whose lives were impacted by the Holocaust, survivors themselves or close relatives of survivors, have shared their stories.

And now school children and others in the Lancaster district will have a chance to get to hear some of these stories.

Some of the contributors had heard their family’s stories many times while they were growing up; others did not find out the full extent of what had happened to their families until they were adults.

All of the stories are relevant to the society we live in today. They show the extremes that some people fleeing war may have experienced – even today. They help us to think about the welcome we should be providing to those seeking refuge in the UK – and how we can ensure that everyone, across the world, has access to shelter and a good life.

Naomi’s grandparents escaped from Poland before the war with her mother and aunt, and eventually ended up in Palestine. Wlodek’s mother escaped Poland with her parents and spent the war years in Russia; his father, who had Aryan looks, ‘hid in plain sight’ in Warsaw throughout the war with a ‘Righteous Gentile’ who sheltered and educated him. Bob’s father escaped to South Africa with his parents, but his mother’s parents weren’t so lucky. Jo’s grandmother left Poland for Israel with her family in the 1930s.

When the signs were clear that Germany was not going to be a good place to be Jewish in the mid 1930s, Pete’s grandparents left with his father for England; Alison’s family left for Spain, initially, and then her father came to England. Judith’s father came to London as a boy of 11 on one of the Czech Kindertransport trains organised by Sir Nicholas Winton, clutching the violin that Jude still plays today; he never saw his parents or siblings again. Diana, who grew up in Novi Sad in Serbia (former Yugoslavia), found out as a young woman that her father spent the last part of the war in Dachau. Her grandparents perished in Auschwitz; as did Bob’s maternal grandparents. Naomi’s maternal grandmother was gassed in Chelmno, and Jude’s father’s family all died in the camps.

Fiona Frank says it has been astonishing to discover how many people in the local area have had their lives affected in some way by the Holocaust and how current that impact is for some.

"Some of the stories shared many themes; the silence surrounding some of them and the need to break it; wanting to know and understand what had happened in the past; the loss of relatives and the mourning for what and who had been lost; the dispersal of people throughout the world; the courage of survivors and those who helped them; elements of luck that had saved some but not others, and how the family stories had shaped lives today."

Several of the contributors will be at the launch as well as some of the young people who will have visited Auschwitz this term.

• From Generation to Generation: the impact of the Holocaust in the Lancaster District’ will be launched on Wednesday 18 November at 6.30pm in the Governors Board Room at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.

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