Shoah survivors watch given to HET

By Robyn Rosen, October 29, 2009
John Bercow (left), Karen Pollock and Dr Julian Lewis at the handover

John Bercow (left), Karen Pollock and Dr Julian Lewis at the handover

The poignant history of a watch hidden by Holocaust survivors at Bergen Belsen and later given to a liberating soldier has been revealed during a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament.

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock received the watch (pictured) in the presence of Commons Speaker John Bercow and Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis. It had been donated by Elizabeth Barnes, 79, of Hythe, Hampshire, whose late father Ronald Cowles had bought it from the soldier over 60 years ago.

The serviceman had been asked by surviving inmates to help them dig up jewellery which they had buried to hide from the Nazis. In gratitude, they gave him a watch and a ring. On returning to England, he gave his mother the ring and sold the watch to Mr Cowles, a mechanics teacher, explaining how it had come into his possession.

Ill-health prevented Mrs Barnes from attending the Westminster ceremony. But she said afterwards that her father had given her the watch on condition that it should be used to prove that the Shoah happened. “He was afraid that people would try to change history. It was full of dirt so I had it cleaned and kept it in my jewellery box and looked at it regularly.”

It was the idea of Dr Lewis, her local MP, that she donate it to HET. “I’m delighted HET has it now,” she added. “Youngsters need to be told about what happened and this watch tells that story.”

Ms Pollock said: “We will honour Mrs Barnes’ request that it be used to educate future generations about the Holocaust and against those who try to deny it.”

Last updated: 4:06pm, October 29 2009