Friday, 20 March, 2015

‘I believe that stories do change the world and that telling stories is incredibly important. Certain stories have changed the way that we see things forever,’ says filmmaker Debs Paterson Memory Makers artist.

World Storytelling Day is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling. Stories are a crucial part of what makes us human. They help make sense of the world around us. Narratives impose order on a world that can often be hard to comprehend, especially in times of crisis and chaos. Stories help us to understand horrendous acts like genocides and other human rights abuses, allowing us to delve into the lives of those behind the statistics and comprehend the immensity of human suffering. Telling stories enables us to keep alive the memory of those murdered, and those who survived. 

Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is one story that has enabled children and adults alike to learn about one teenage girl’s experiences during the Holocaust. Anne shared her story through her diary and contemporary readers continue to use this powerful narrative to learn about and remember the Holocaust. Young readers follow the changes that Anne experiences as she enters adolescence while in hiding. They are changes that, whether young and old, we can all relate to.

To mark 70 years since Anne Frank’s death on Tuesday 14 April, the Anne Frank Trust are asking you to read a one-minute excerpt of Anne’s inspirational writing out loud and share it on social media with the hashtag #notsilent. Alternatively you can share your own life experiences.

Drawing on the power of storytelling, the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh marked Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) this year by sharing Anne Frank’s story. Colin Mackay, an experienced storyteller, selected several extracts from The Diary of a Young Girl, which he encouraged audience members to read aloud. Told in the centre’s intimate Storytelling Bothy, (traditionally a small building in remote areas where people would gather to shelter or share stories and songs) Colin used Anne’s diary to expand the audience’s understanding of the horror of war through her experiences. Daniel Abercrombie from the Scottish Storytelling Centre said, 'Sharing stories is a great way of passing on history and culture, this event celebrated an amazing young girl whose story is one of strength, courage and hope.' Open to all ages, this HMD event highlights the power of storytelling to bring people together and keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. 

This year our innovative digital storytelling campaign Memory Makers brought together artists with Holocaust and genocide survivors to share their important stories through a range of different arts. In doing so the stories of survivors were shared almost 8,000 times across social media and brought to a new generation through a range of different formats: film, animation, illustration, ceramics, written word, poetry and collage.

Survivor of Auschwitz Ivor Perl shared his moving story with animator and filmmaker Gemma Green-Hope. Ivor was just 11 when he was taken to Auschwitz, and he only survived the camp with the help of his older brother. Gemma and Ivor discussed family, memory and hope – how the lessons of the past can shape and mould our future.

‘Meeting with him was incredibly moving, and his testimony made me reflect on how many lives and stories were lost, and also taught me a great deal about the Holocaust, what life was like for Ivor and for many people before and during the terrible events that occurred, and how it has affected survivors’ lives since,’ said Gemma.

Gemma’s film uses hand drawn animations that evoke the childhood innocence that was shattered by the emergence of the Nazis in Ivor’s life.

Partially-sighted illustrator Kimberely Burrows met with Sabina Miller. Sabina survived the Holocaust by fleeing the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto and hiding in the Polish countryside. Sabina has never seen any of her family again. The only photographs she had of them were stolen from her whilst hiding in a hole in a forest. Kimberley and Sabina discussed the importance of family and positivity to overcoming adversity, and how hatred can never break the human spirit. Kimberley was struck by Sabina’s positivity.

‘Meeting her was such an honour and a wonderful experience where, in those few short hours we spent talking to each other, she influenced me beyond my imagining. Through her powerful storytelling, kind nature and wise words I have learned first-hand how strong people can be even after enduring the loss of family, identity and hope, and that love, kindness and positivity can truly conquer all,’ she said.

After listening to Sabina’s story Kimberley created this illustration depicting the contrast between Sabina’s life during the Holocaust and after. Those war years are shown as bleak and colourless in black and white, juxtaposed against the colourful and positive family life that Sabina has built for herself today. The youngest of her great grandchildren is wrapped in Sabina’s only possession from her own childhood, a cardigan bought for her by her mother as a birthday present.

Survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides choose to share their life stories with us to ensure the terrible crimes of the past are neither forgotten nor repeated. Their stories testify to the man’s inhumanity to man and provide a powerful warning to us all, reminding us that ordinary life can quickly change and that it is everyone’s responsibility to work towards building tolerant and safe societies today.

On World Storytelling Day, you can keep the memory alive so that we learn the lessons of the past. Share the life story of a survivor on social media using #WorldStory15 or take part in the Anne Frank Trust’s #notsilent campaign