On Monday 12 November, following the Annual General Meeting, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust held its first Public Conversation: Finding Meaning in a Day. The conversation provided an important opportunity to talk about the nature of commemoration.
The event opened with a personal perspective on the meaning of the Holocaust from survivor, Agnes Grunwald-Spier JP, who was followed by a presentation by Holocaust academic, Professor David Cesarani OBE. They were joined by Dr Jane Clements and Rabbi Barry Marcus to respond to questions and comments from the floor. The audience comprised of Holocaust Memorial Day local activity organisers and professionals working in the field of Holocaust and genocide education.
The conversation followed how the meaning of the Holocaust has changed over time and has reflected the developments of multiculturalism in Britain. It looked at the role that commemoration can play in fighting contemporary racism and discrimination. Questions were also raised about how we manage the relationship between the Holocaust and the subsequent genocides.
A key topic raised was the importance of including the voices of those survivors who came to Britain after the Holocaust and how their stories shape our understanding of the Holocaust today. Agnes Grunwald-Spier, highlighted the importance of the survivor experience through a presentation on her life and urged the audience to pass her story to their own families, as one example of over six million personal tragedies. She was joined from the floor by HMDT Honorary President and survivor Ben Helfgott MBE who spoke of how important it is for him to tell his story to younger generations, to help them to understand what happened and prevent these atrocities happening again.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, HMDT Chief Executive, said,
David Cesarani gave an inspirational presentation about the changing meanings of Holocaust commemoration, and Agnes Grunwald-Spier provided a moving account of the impact of the Holocaust on one family. In January 2013, we are encouraging communities to come together to Build a Bridge to connect with others and build a better future.
Fergal Keane who was unable to attend, sent a message expressing the importance of a discussion around HMD,
We need more conversations like this [..] the lessons of the Holocaust – of the need for tolerance, the need to confront ethnic hatred – are absolutely essential for this and coming generations to learn.
The event also provided an opportunity to say goodbye to some longstanding trustees and welcome some new faces to the board. We say goodbye to Agnes Grunwald-Spier JP, Professor David Cesarani OBE, Dr Jane Clements, Louise Ellman MP and Rabbi Barry Marcus and thank them for their commitment and support over the years.
We welcome new trustees Amy Braier, Deputy Director of the Pears Foundation, Dilwar Hussain, Head of the Policy Research Centre, Julian Glicher, Accountant, Kirsty McNeill, Political Consultant and Mike Freer MP. At his appointment Mike Freer said,
The work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is invaluable. Not only in ensuring that once a year we stop and reflect, but also by working throughout the year to ensure people learn about genocide and the Holocaust so that we can learn the lessons.
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