History: Sixth Formers Lead Holocaust Memorial Assembly

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Monday 30 January saw Bede’s History department hosting a special assembly to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

With pupil speakers including Owen Shadwell, Jessie Davies, Lily Potter, Louis Muston, Tom McGovern and Lillie Skerman, Head of History Mr Frame piloted the presentation, which was interspersed with extracts from academics, eyewitnesses and those who witnessed the horrors of World War 2, conflicts including the Bosnian War, and the injustices of Apartheid South Africa.

“Since the discoveries of Nazi death camps by Russian soldiers on 27 January 1943, the name Auschwitz has become synonymous with genocide,” Mr Frame explained, “yet Auschwitz was among hundreds of places across Europe that specialised in death. While the majority of victims were Jewish, many also were Polish, Travellers, homosexuals and dissidents of the Nazi state, and the students involved tried their best to speak for as diverse a collection of holocaust victims as possible.”

Aside from talking evocatively and movingly about crimes against humanity, the students also acknowledged the massive pain and suffering experienced by individuals. They spoke of doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, teachers, shopkeepers and voiced the pain of men, women and children from a multitude of nationalities.

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“We wanted to use the assembly as a reminder of our own humanity - our human condition - and how it can be so easy to turn a blind eye,” said Mr Frame.

“After all, we cannot hope to understand and recognise our humanity without history, and as we do not live forever in the present we need to listen to accounts from those who were there, experiencing the horror of it all.”

Alongside stories of slaughter and discrimination, the students also opted to voice examples of the courage and enormous grit shown by people who, despite the odds, had held onto their indomitable human spirit.

In doing so, the children reminded us all of where we have come from and how we must fight to stop genocide and discrimination wherever we find it and in its many grotesque and often subtly pervasive forms.

“This is one of the key roles of a historian,” said Mr Frame, in conclusion. “Thankfully, as evidenced by the work of all of the children who contributed to the assembly, this burden and responsibility is something the next generation seems exceptionally well-equipped to handle.”

 

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