For Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2017, a week of activities took place in Down County Museum, including survivor of Auschwitz, Mindu Hornick, a first time visitor to Northern Ireland, speaking movingly to local secondary school pupils. This series of activities engaged different audiences, encouraging others in the area to mark HMD.

Down High School and Assumption Grammar School attended the event where Mindu spoke about her experiences and gave students the opportunity to ask questions. Attending this event had a strong personal impact on the local Council Chairman, who decided to attend other local events as a result.

Community Education Manager, Linda McKenna, led three sessions for primary school pupils in a series of cross curricular workshops, which encouraged pupils to focus on the theme and think about justice, reconciliation and rebuilding after genocide. Pupils heard individual experiences of the Holocaust, found out more about Millisle Farm, a place where many Jewish children fleeing 

Nazi terror found a new home in the late 1930s, and other experiences of hope, trust and humanity in the midst of war. An art and literacy activity focused on creating ‘wordscapes’ on rainbows, highlighting the theme of HMD 2017: How can life go on?

Linda explained:

‘We looked at the shoe machine from the Millisle farm to see how a seemingly ordinary object had an extremely, powerful story behind it.

We used acrylic rainbows to think of how, after cataclysmic disasters, hope, life and positive relations between people are still possible. Pupils thought about seven positive words they could write in each section of a rainbow and wrote seven word poems on luggage labels symbolising journeys with the idea that positive messages could travel around the world.

The pupils and schools found the experience challenging and fruitful. Choosing objects to represent individual experiences was very worthwhile, getting them thinking about how museums can represent difficult events in history.’ 

Adult audiences were catered for by an impactful spoken word event. This featured a performance of a dramatic monologue called Farm Girl by Jane Coyle, which was created especially for HMD 2017. Evocative poetry readings from Words of Castle Ward Poetry Collective and Lagan Online poets conveyed powerful messages of the horror and the humanity of life.