Shaun Palmer, one of the Holocaust Educational Trust's Regional Ambassadors for the North-West, reflects on his and Trust's experiences this summer
I took part in Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project (LFA) in November 2011 and I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the Trust in various ways for the last two years. I’m proud to now be part of the first cohort of Regional Ambassadors representing the North West. As a Regional Ambassador I have committed myself to arranging events that encourage others to learn about and remember the Holocaust. We’re also tasked with galvanizing the enthusiasm of other Ambassadors, and ensuring they know what to do with the enthusiasm and passion they have for the work of the Trust.
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to join the Trust on several of their first time events and projects. As the summer draws to an end, we all start thinking about the start of a new academic year, and I look forward to student life, I want to let you all know why it’s been such a great few months and why I’m looking forward to continuing my role as a Regional Ambassador during my time at university!
The Trust, Lessons from Auschwitz (LFA) and the Ambassador Programme have come on leaps and bounds since 1999 when LFA began. On July 8th the Ambassador Programme was officially launched at the first Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassador Conference in London. Having never visited London before, I couldn't think of a better way to be welcomed to the capital than by attending such an interesting day, in the heart of the city. Over 500 Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors and delegates (students from colleges and sixth forms) had the chance to hear from esteemed speakers such as the renowned historian Professor Yehuda Bauer and Director of civil liberties charity, Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti. As with everything concerning the Trust, the day was non-stop and we spent it attending seminars that increased our understanding of the Holocaust; themes ranged from anti-Semitism in history to the culpability of the German perpetrators. This was certainly an experience that will enrich all of our understandings by consolidating what we had already learnt during LFA. I’m sure it will also increase our determination in the work we do as Ambassadors.
Following the conference, the Trust’s Regional Ambassadors were invited to attend a reception, hosted by Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. Jon Bercow MP, where we had the chance to meet and talk with MPs and supporters of the Trust. Having never been to London before, on that one day I had been to a Conference which was hosted opposite one of London’s biggest landmarks (Big Ben), and spent the evening speaking with MPs in the impressive surroundings of The Speaker’s House in the House of Commons – not many can claim to have such an introduction to London!
The following day Regional Ambassadors reconvened for a Steering Group Meeting in the House of Lords, led by Lord John Browne of Madingley, who heads the Ambassador Programme, and attended by Professor Yehuda Bauer, Doreen Lawrence OBE and Auschwitz survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE. It was a chance for us to discuss the challenges of Holocaust education in the 21st Century, and update Lord Browne with the progress of Regional Ambassadors to date. Being surrounded by such an inspirational board gave us all the chance to discuss our own personal targets and where we, as Regional Ambassadors, hope to direct our efforts. I think we all left with more clarity on what we hope to achieve but also with inspiration from one another as we shared our own ideas.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, little more than a week later came one the most amazing experiences of my life; the inaugural Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassador Study Visit which brought together Regional Ambassadors from across the UK to study at the world's leading Holocaust center, Yad Vashem in Israel.
Our week was spent attending lectures and workshops at Yad Vashem on a wide range of subjects from "Jewish Life between the wars" to "The Final Solution". This aimed to further our knowledge of the Holocaust and it was a huge success, if you ask me. Highlights of my week were hearing a talk from Dr Effaim Zuroff, a Nazi Hunter and the first hand testimony of Holocaust survivor Ester Schlesinger. Dr. Zuroff's talk highlighted the continuing efforts to bring perpetrators of the Holocaust to justice. As Operation Last Chance (an operation launched by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre with a mission of tracking down ex-Nazis still in hiding) hit the headlines, I realised that the issues we were discussing are as relevant as ever. Ms. Schlesinger delivered a touching testimony on her experiences during the Holocaust. This brought home to me why we were there – to learn about the Holocaust. What better way to do this than by hearing from someone like Esther, who experienced it firsthand.
The opportunities I have had this summer have served to increase my enthusiasm and dedication to work with the Trust in order to ensure young people around Britain learn about the Holocaust and the tragic effects that came of antisemitism and intolerance under the Nazis.
Thanks to the Trust (its supporters and dedicated staff) I have had the most incredible summer. I've had some amazing experiences and have made some equally amazing friends. I'm now looking forward to working on my own projects as a Regional Ambassador as well as working with my fellow Ambassadors to encourage their involvement. I hope that when they hear of my plans the survivors I have met, as well as those I have not, will be reassured to know that there is a generation of Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors ensuring that the Holocaust is remembered.
Although the Ambassador Program has only just officially been launched it is safe to say that it has been the most fantastic of beginnings.