Sunday, 27 January, 2013

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 our focus will be on bringing Communities Together: Build a Bridge.

This introduction is in two parts.  The first part explains the theme for 2013 and the second part provides you with different options for using our resources to deliver work for Holocaust Memorial Day 2013.

Part 1 – the theme for HMD 2013 Communities Together: Build a Bridge
Imagine waking up to find that the neighbours you have known all your life and even sat next to at school, now walk past you without stopping, now forbid their children from playing with yours, now spit at you and even attack you.

Imagine having nowhere to turn, that the walls are closing in and that there is no escape.  Imagine that you have done nothing wrong, yet you are to be punished nonetheless and no-one will stand by you.

On HMD 2013, we’re asking you to remember and stand by those who were forced to live through these experiences.  We want you to honour those communities which were destroyed in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, as well as the atrocities in Armenia.

History tells us that communities which have lived side by side peacefully for generations and even centuries can be persuaded to turn on each other with murderous intent.  People were betrayed by their neighbours and removed from the safety of their former communities and subjected to extremes of violence and injustice.  It is the courage and determination of those who survived and rebuilt their lives that we can draw on today.

In cities, towns and villages – wherever we live, there are others around us.  Our communities are made up of individuals with different backgrounds, occupations and lives.  Communities may be defined by geography, by interest, by cultural activities or by faith.  On HMD 2013, whether individually or as groups we can make links, forge connections and reach out to different communities.

When the Nazis took over Germany in 1933, Jewish families were no longer welcome in German society and Jews were sacked from their jobs, including those who had been decorated for their courage in military service in World War One.  Families with generations of German citizenship were stripped of their rights and excluded from schools, shops and parks.  The exclusion was legislated by Nazi officials, but communities supported it by boycotting Jewish people and their businesses.  As neighbourhoods fractured, Nazi policies became more radical in their means of excluding Jews.

During the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides in the 1990s, many communities were divided by ethnicity.   Tutsis in Rwanda and Bosniak Muslims in Bosnia were attacked by neighbours and colleagues within their communities.  Kemal Pervanic was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the Bosnian War.  Many of the Bosnian Serb guards who held Kemal captive in appalling conditions were former neighbours, schoolmates and even a friend he had shared a desk with.  In the genocides in Cambodia and Darfur, many communities were attacked because others wanted to gain from their destruction.

There are also those who protected their communities.  In Albania during the Holocaust, many Muslim communities chose to save Jews.  People saved Jews by providing hiding places and misdirecting the Nazis.  At the end of the Holocaust, Albania was the only country in Europe where the Jewish population had increased during the years 1939-45.

We can also be inspired by individuals who took action to protect communities.  Vali Rácz was a Catholic Hungarian and a well known and successful singer who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust.  Vali had made a number of Jewish friends in show business and when the Nazis began deporting Jews from Hungary, many of her friends were in danger.  She hid Jews in her own house despite the great personal risk this involved.  Vali’s experiences in knowing and befriending many Jews motivated her desire to help them during the Holocaust and all those hidden in Vali’s house survived the war.

Many people who fled from persecution during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides have rebuilt their lives and supported new communities in Britain.  Today, we each have responsibilities as individuals and as members of our own communities.  We can start by getting to know and support the diverse communities in the UK and the individuals who make up the whole.  We can respect each other’s differences and places in communities.  Ultimately, some of the ways in which you can prevent hatred and discrimination are by making connections with, and between, communities.

Part 2 – options for Secondary delivery
This year, Secondary and Post 16 are packaged together, so that you can use the parts most relevant for your students.  Each discussion topic can be taken to different levels depending on your students, but we leave this to the teacher’s discretion.  We understand that the time able to commit to HMD varies greatly between settings, so have provided a couple of options.

Vali Racz was a Hungarian Catholic actress who hid a number of Jews during the Occupation.  You will find an assembly with an accompanying powerpoint exploring Vali’s story within the context of the HMD 2013 theme.

Overview There is another assembly, with accompanying powerpoint that provides a very brief overview of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.  It also highlights three individuals who supported members of their community or who benefited from the help of extraordinary people – both strangers and friends.

Classroom delivery
There are a number of discussion points that can be explored around each of the genocides.  A bridge visual has been provided so that students can increase their understanding as they move across the bridge.  This makes a connection between what has happened in the past, the impact that this has on our society and how we behave as an international community today.

You may be able to commit to having one discussion or a series of them throughout the day, week or month.

You can use the accompanying assembly powerpoint on the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in class with students.  This can be printed off as powerpoint notes.  On each page, there will be a picture on the slide and in the notes area, a couple of key facts about each genocide.  This can be given to students with the PDF with scenarios and discussion topics.

Within the teacher’s notes, you will find links to some previous case studies which highlight the courageous acts of individuals.

You can download a printable version of this page here.


  • 11-14
  • 14-16