Lottery windfall helps to preserve Shoah stories

By Jessica Elgot, November 4, 2011
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Lilian Black peruses the Shoah memorial book at the MAZ centre in Leeds

Lilian Black peruses the Shoah memorial book at the MAZ centre in Leeds

A Leeds group has been awarded almost £150,000 of Lottery funding to train families of Holocaust survivors to pass on their stories.

The aim of the two-year Holocaust Survivors' Friendship Association scheme is to prepare 30 new speakers to relate Shoah experiences to schools and adult groups. The £146,200 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also go towards recording the testimonies of Yorkshire-based survivors and the stories of other Nazi-persecuted minorities.

Run by volunteers, the HSFA currently involves 85 survivors. Members give talks and interviews but the number of able speakers is dwindling at a time of increased demand.

HSFA chair Lilian Black said it was vital to have the next generation of speakers in place. The survivors recounted "the horrors which they once endured because they want to alert the wider community to the dangers of scapegoating, bigotry and persecution which can, and did, lead to the genocide of a whole people".

Her Hungarian-born father Eugene, 83, survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. "He is still a very active speaker but we aim to train second and even third generation family members to speak about their family experiences. We have also had interest from other members of the community and non-Jews in being trained as speakers.

"The funding is absolutely wonderful. It shows that they share the vision of our small voluntary group."

Yorkshire and Humber Heritage Lottery Fund head Fiona Spiers said the HSFA "is the only northern organisation meeting this demand in the UK. Whilst the number of Holocaust survivors is diminishing, more and more people are now opening up for the first time about their experiences.

"This project offers a new opportunity to train more volunteers as speakers so we can pass on knowledge and understanding."

A number of suvivors live in the Leeds North East constituency of Labour MP Fabian Hamilton. Having visited Auschwitz on a number of occasions, he felt it "vitally important that the stories of the Holocaust are not lost. The members of the HSFA across the region will, I'm sure, ensure that does not happen."

    Last updated: 10:33am, November 4 2011