On January 25th UCL Centre for Holocaust Education colleagues joined together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
Opening remarks by the Centre’s Ruth-Anne Lenga set the tone:
‘UCL’s Centre for Holocaust Education has been operating since 2008 and with 15 members of staff dedicated to helping teachers across the country improve the quality of Holocaust education in their schools, hardly a day goes past when we, the staff, are not fully conscious of the Holocaust and its importance in the education of young people. But rarely do we get the chance to collectively stop, down tools (so to speak), reflect upon and commemorate this tragic history, in our own way. But this HMD Centre staff together with Dr. Clare Brooks, Chair of Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy and Dr. Farid Panjwani, Director of the UCL’s Centre for Research in Muslim Education, met to do just that.’
On reflection afterwards, Ruth-Anne commented: ‘We were especially honoured to be joined by Holocaust survivors Ben Helfgott and Mala Tribich, both longstanding friends of the Centre. Mala, who regularly shares her testimony with young people in schools, spoke to us candidly about her struggle to understand how she survived and praised the Centre’s work in helping young people grapple with the difficult questions that the Holocaust raises.’
Given Holocaust Memorial Day 2018’s theme, the power of words, Centre staff took the opportunity to thank both Mala and Ben, and all survivors, for their powerful words in sharing their testimonies with schools and the world. We pledged to help teachers share those stories and survivors insights in the years to come and our reaffirmed our determination to support those who seek to teach about the Holocaust, wrestling with its complexity to challenge prevailing myths and misconceptions, with CPD and programmes which are research informed and encourage, informed, innovative, appropriate and meaningful learning about the past and its relevance today.
We were also joined by a extraordinary young filmmaker Joshua Rocker, a first Year King’s student. Ruth-Anne explained: ‘During his gap year, Joshua had make a film on the life of British born Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman who he had met when he was only 7 years of age. Our team and guests were able to view this remarkable film which documented Leon’s life before, during and after the Holocaust.’
Leon’s story is central to the Centre’s professional development programme for schools – and this was a fitting combination of both memorial and educational legacy.
Several other guests from outside UCL joined us including Ms. Shakira Martin, President of the NUS. She spoke passionately about her commitment to confronting antisemitism on University campuses and the importance of Holocaust education. It was a intimate, informal, but reflective, compelling and fitting a memorial gathering, including a candle lighting ceremony in memory of victims of the Holocaust.
Centre colleagues later joined survivors, educators, politicians, religious and civic leaders at the HMD national ceremony in Westminster.