Girls’ School – Holocaust Memorial Day

This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘One Day’, with an opening ceremony which explored all the different events that can happen over one day. One day in particular was changed by Hershel Grynspan- his actions triggered the tragedy of Kristallnacht.

We were privileged to be joined by students from Copthall School and St. Marys’ Catholic School.

Music composed in Theresienstadt by Jacob Weinberg was played by Mrs Algranati, who explained her choice: the first piece, Grandmothers Legend, was a slow melancholic piece full of yearning and longing, with an upward arching melody. Possibly the composer was thinking about his family and life before the Holocaust which was destroyed on the One Day that changed everyone’s lives. The second contrasting piece is called Wedding Dance. It is unlikely that this piece was written to celebrate an actual wedding within the ghetto, yet it ignites a memory of joyous celebrations. The music is fast, full of life and often quite raucous.

Afterwards, the students went to a range of workshops. Year 9 were with the Art Department listening to survivors’ stories and making their own memorial flame. The JS Department ran a session for Years 7 and 8 about the One Day of Purim in the Vilna Ghetto. They also experienced the History Department workshop about a boy in the Terezin ghetto, using the poem ‘If I never see another Butterfly’ by Pavel Friedman.

Year 10 learned from the English Department’s insightful and detailed workshop, which used powerful images and carefully researched historical material to develop their knowledge of the Holocaust.

The Sixth Form and Year 11 spent time with Dr David Wolgroch, the son of a Holocaust survivor, discussing positive resilience. The Q&A at the end was fascinating, with Dr. Wolgroch relating an experience with his son and his father: the boy asked what the numbers meant on his grandfather’s arm. He was told this was something ‘a bad person did’. The child’s response was to kiss it ‘all better’. To which Dr Wolgroch’s father, astounded, called the child a ‘mensch’. Out of the bitter comes the sweet.

The second half of the day saw all the girls return to the hall where Mrs Abecasis told the story of a German family who were caught up in the Nazi net after they fled to Antwerp. The children went into hiding. They survived and eventually made it to America. The son, Alfred Friedmann, is Mrs Abecasis’ father.

Mrs Jacobson launched the Creative Competition based on the idea of One Day- this can be a written entry or use any form of creative media. Good luck to all.

Ariella G, with other Year 12 students, shared her Parysow project with the school. This was the project to translate the memorial book of the town of Parysow, Poland from Yiddish into English. Batsheva S spoke about her experience translating, and connecting with elderly Yiddish speakers. Avigayil R read an excerpt from the translation, and Maya G concluded with the suggestion of possibly organising another volume in the series.

The final speaker was Mrs Brice, after which the event concluded with a song sung by all about how ONE act of kindness can save a world.

Thank you to Mrs Abecasis for creating such a well-run, educational and inspirational Holocaust Memorial Day.