Ambassador Study Visit to Yad Vashem

As a Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust, I recently had the privilege of travelling to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel to learn more about the Holocaust, Jewish culture and contemporary antisemitism.

After digesting all that I learnt over the ten days, I am writing this to share the most powerful messages the Ambassador Study Visit taught me, at a time when the issue of antisemitism is unfortunately, so prevalent.

During our time in Yad Vashem, we had a series of lectures and workshops on various topics, aimed at raising our awareness of the Holocaust and its wider context. Lectures included both historical sessions; ‘The Final Solution’, the Warsaw Ghetto and an extremely moving lecture on the Auschwitz Album, as well as a focus on Jewish life both before and after the Holocaust, defining Judaism and an introduction to the Israel-Palestine Conflict. The focus on wider Jewish life was clear to see over our time in Israel, which I personally saw as an attempt to strengthen our thoughts over the Holocaust being an attempt to eliminate a whole culture and community, not just a large number of individuals. Visiting Israel allows one to gain a deeper understanding of the consequences of the Holocaust. This idea needs to be spread in order to restrain the rise of antisemitism in contemporary society.

The opportunity to hear from leading experts in this field was incredible. Professor Yehuda Bauer’s lecture on the definition of genocide provided us all with a great deal more about a topic that can feel quite convoluted at times. The main point I took from his words was the fact that although we can make comparisons between the Holocaust and other genocides, the Nazi belief that Jews had to be murdered for the sake of humankind, is a dimension not present in other acts of genocide either before or after the Holocaust. It is important to remember that one cannot compare another person’s suffering and, as Bauer stated, the Holocaust is not unique, as this would imply it can’t happen again, which is a treacherous road to go down, but it was unprecedented.

Hearing Daniel Gold’s testimony was one of the most memorable parts of the Ambassador Study Visit, as it is always so moving when you hear a survivor share their testimony. Daniel suffered so much at such a young age, only being two years old when the war broke out and four when he was placed in a ghetto. Yet, Daniel seemed to have a wonderful outlook on life, having been a pilot, scientist, policeman and biker in Israel since he moved there aged eighteen. One aspect of his presentation that stood out to me was the sheer volume of photos he had taken to document his life and then learning he has been left with only has one photo of him with his mother that was taken before the Holocaust. This is precisely why survivor testimony is so important to remembering the Holocaust; without it, it is impossible to even begin to understand impact the Holocaust had. A link to Daniel’s story can be found below.

As always with the Holocaust Educational Trust, there was a clear emphasis on remembrance, but this Ambassador Study Visit helped me to realise that we are not just remembering the lives that were lost during the Holocaust, but what was almost lost in Jewish culture. We were surrounded by the culture whilst staying in Jerusalem and it was truly fascinating, especially during the Shabbat celebrations. The Holocaust nearly eliminated it all, for no good reason, and we each have an individual responsibility to stop anything similar thing from happening again.

Zach Normington is a Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust. 

Daniel’s story -