Holocaust Memorial trip to Elstree and Borehamwood United SynagoguePosted on 06/02/2020
On Monday 3rd February, we were extremely privileged to be invited to Elstree and Borehamwood United Synagogue to take part in a Holocaust Memorial event. Each year, on 27th January, we remember the 6 million Jews murdered as part of the Holocaust. On that day in 1945, Russian soldiers liberated those survivors from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of all the Nazi death camps. It is also an opportunity however, to take time to remember the millions of other groups and people persecuted and killed by the Nazis as well as subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
We began with a short speech by Rabbi Alan Plancey, which drew upon the theme of learning to live together, even more poignant after the terrorist attack in Streatham on Sunday. Students then had the opportunity to work in small groups investigating the origins and course of Nazi persecution of the Jews which culminated in the attempt to destroy an entire race of people. The undoubted highlight of the day was listening to the daughter of Harry Spiro talk about his experiences. At 91, he is not able to give speeches like he used to but his daughter spoke with great clarity and emotion about his life after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. His childhood was immediately shattered; within months he had to face the loss of his entire family, being forced into a series of work camps before the infamous death march west in 1945, as Russian soldiers approached and the Nazis tried to cover their horrendous war crimes.
Of the 3,000 forced to march in the ice and snow, Harry was one of less than 300 who survived. What he had witnessed before he was even 15 is something we can only imagine, yet his story had a happy ending. Chosen as on of 1,000 orphan Holocaust survivors, he was brought to Britain and supported to build a new life. We saw pictures of him with four generations of family and his message, 'Don't give in to hate,' is incredibly inspirational and apt in these troubled times. It was a real privilege to hear his story and have the opportunity to ask him questions afterwards. Year 8 were magnificent representatives of the school and got a huge amount from the event. We won't have the opportunity to hear from Holocaust survivors for much longer but as long as keep their stories alive, then what they went through will never be forgotten.