Holocaust Educational Trust Blog

A space for featured guest bloggers and members of the Holocaust Educational Trust team to comment and reflect on timely issues.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2016: You may think you are remembering...



Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day tomorrow, columnist and radio presenter Emma Barnett blogs on the duty that we all have to remember the Holocaust.


Yesterday morning as I sleepily pulled on my cosy thermal tights, I was suddenly grateful. Grateful that I had such protection from the bitter winds outside.

This sudden wave of gratitude followed me as I walked to the tube, legs snug in the furry warmth of M and S’s finest denier and didn’t leave all day.

The trigger? A conversation with my beloved mother-in-law the night before in which she told me her father had survived his time in a Siberian labour camp with only wellington boots to protect his feet from the minus 40C cold.  And how her mother, who somehow made her way through the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and Stutthof, had even less to protect her diminished frame.

People have different ways of remembering and the most obscure things can prompt reflection. Even tights.

As the Holocaust slips further and further into history, we mustn’t take for granted that people will continue to properly engage with the horror. After all it’s a horror that defies belief and thus demands a person’s full attention and energy.

And the only way it still can come to life, 71 years on, is through the testimonies of survivors and witnesses. It is to these we must turn and keep turning. Jews included.

I say this because two weeks ago I had the privilege of interviewing Eva Clarke, one of the miracle babies born in a concentration camp just 24 hours after the Nazis dismantled the gas chambers.

You can read more about her and her remarkable mother, Anka, here.

However, her story has been forensically told in a harrowing new book, Born Survivors by Wendy Holden – who also joined us on stage in a packed Westminster hall for the Holocaust Educational Trust’s annual Lord Merlyn-Rees Memorial Lecture.

Having grown up reading countless Holocaust accounts, from Anne Frank’s to Elie Wiesel’s, and visited Auschwitz,  it was upon sitting down with Holden’s tome, that I realised how little I’d engaged with the Holocaust of late.

I thought I knew there was all to know or thereabouts. But here’s the thing – none of us do. How can we know what happened to all of the millions who perished and those who survived? We can’t. It’s too much. Even one story can be too much to digest over a lifetime.

I’d managed to get to the age of 30 knowing nothing about the babies born into the ineffable horror of Mauthausen concentration camp. How many other stories will never be told? Millions.

As Eva said to Wendy - when the author asked if she could tell her remarkable story: “I’ve been waiting for you for 70 years.”

While Eva’s words gave me chills – they were nothing like the ones I had when weepily reading the final chapter of Born Survivors and learned of Eva’s reunion with the two other ‘Mauthausen babies’ six decades on.

It is our duty to keep remembering and never become complacent about what happened in ‘civilised Europe’.

Even if you think you remember; remember again and again. It's the least we can do.

Emma Barnett is a Telegraph columnist and a BBC  Radio 4 and 5 Live presenter.

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