Our Public Conversation asks ‘is too much asked of survivors?’

On Monday 25 November we held our Public Conversation exploring a question integral to the work of Holocaust and genocide commemoration – do we ask too much of survivors?

The audience heard from Omarska concentration camp survivor, Kemal Pervanić, Holocaust Survivors’ Centre Manager Aviva Trup, and the Institute of Education’s Ruth-Anne Lenga, who shared their expertise in response to the question.

The event was chaired by Aegis Trust Chief Executive and Holocaust Centre Beth Shalom founder, Dr James Smith.

Chief Executive Olivia Marks-Woldman with the panel

Chief Executive Olivia Marks-Woldman with the panel

HMDT Chief Executive, Olivia Marks-Woldman, said: ‘Our Public Conversation is an annual event to ask questions about the nature of commemoration.

Many HMD activity organisers feel that working with survivors is an honour – tonight’s discussion reminded us that it is also a responsibility.

Survivor testimony is the most powerful way of conveying what happened in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, but it places many demands – physical and emotional – on survivors.

With over 2,000 local activities across the country, HMD provides a platform for tens of thousands of people to hear their life stories.’

Kemal Pervanić said: ‘Speaking about my experiences does not come cheap. It costs me every time I speak. But I feel that this is the way I can help to change the world.’

He also explained how ‘the stories of survivors put a face, experience and humanity to the term ‘genocide.’’

Contributions from survivors and guests ranged across the need to counter Holocaust denial, the therapeutic value of giving testimony, the roles played by second and third generations, and the levels of ignorance about the Holocaust and more recent genocides.

Lily Ebert, a Holocaust survivor said: ‘It is very difficult to speak but if we don't speak who will? What would have happened if we didn't speak out?'

Panellist Aviva Trupp, also highlighted the importance of using social media to reach younger generations and wider audiences with the testimony and life stories of survivors.

The event was also an opportunity to say goodbye to some longstanding trustees: Andrew Pakes, Jack Gilbert and Vice Chair Henry Grunwald.

We welcomed to the board Laura Marks, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies, Fiyaz Mughal OBE, Director of Faith Matters and Tell Mama UK and Joe Mulhall from Hope not Hate.