Holocaust survivor portraits to be exhibited in Parliament

30 young artists will have their work displayed to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2023


When Hannah Brennan was growing up, her grandfather’s experience surviving the Holocaust was never talked about. It was only after he died last year that the details of his wartime suffering, murdered siblings and flight to England came to light. 

Ms Brennan’s intimate painting of him sitting in a chair and reading the paper will now be exhibited in Parliament after she was revealed as one of 30 winners of a Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) and Royal Drawing School portrait competition. 

Six depictions of survivors of the Shoah and other genocides will be displayed in Portcullis House alongside five photographs by Rankin.

The renowned photographer profiled five subjects, including Budapest Ghetto survivor John Hajdu.

He told the JC he hoped seeing portraits of people who had lived through genocide would hope MPs remember the impact of racism.

“I hope that they go back to their constituencies and say we have seen photos of survivors, and survivors from the Nazi occupation, and unfortunately there is still antisemitism in this country," Mr Hajdu said.

"This is a deterrent, this is one thing they can say to their constituents: don’t forget we have not stopped having antisemitism.

Alongside Rankin, HMDT CEO Olivia Marks-Woldman, Rwandan genocide survivor Antoinette Mutabazi, Tulip Siddiq MP, and acclaimed young portraitist Gideon Summerfield selected 30 young artists as winners of the [Extra]Ordinary Portraits competition.

They include a drawing by 13-year-old Mair Nippers of Auguste Spitz, a Jewish immigrant to Guernsey who was deported to her death at Auschwitz in 1942. 

"I created this piece as a way to commemorate her life and the horrors she lived through and died in,” Miss Nippers wrote. 

“I used biro to lightly draw her face over [her immigration] form as a way to represent the memory of what her life should have been and was like before the war.”

To mark this year’s HMD theme of “ordinary people,” entrants were asked to create portraits that revealed an “extraordinary" aspect to seemingly regular individuals.

A winning drawing by 20-year-old Ellie Jones shows Kindertransport refugees Ann and Bob Kirk.

Ms Jones said: "I used ink and a dipping brush for the portraits to get plenty of detail and then scanned it digitally to add images of their childhood behind them with family members and their wedding photos as memories to look back on not relating to the Holocaust."

Jacob Venit, 17, produced a portrait of Nisad ‘Šiško’ Jakupović, who survived the Bosian genocide.

Mr Venit said: “As a Jewish person, I find it horrific that genocides like these continue to take place. Lessons never seem to be learned by the evil people who persecute minorities; the parallels between these events are so striking.”

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who will host the exhibition in Parliament, said: “This exhibition is a powerful statement that the United Kingdom will always remember the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust and more recent genocides. 

“It prompts us to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own – it is a process which can begin if discrimination, racism, and hatred are not checked and prevented.”

Tulip Siddiq said: “This was an important opportunity to engage young people with the Holocaust, genocide, and identity-based persecution, and it was amazing to see the thought that they put into their portraits.” 

The Hampstead and Kilburn MP selected an entry by Walid Yasir, who survived the genocide in Darfur for a prestigious Judges’ Favourite Award. 

Walid said: “I am a survivor of persecution, war, and state-sanctioned violence. I am from Blue Nile, Sudan…

“This was a difficult project for me, the creation of my first-ever self-portrait, but I wanted to join this competition to show the world who I am.”

HMDT CEO Olivia Marks-Woldman said: “We are delighted that Mr Speaker has chosen to host this exhibition in the heart of parliament. 

“As we reflect on this year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day, Ordinary People, it is fitting that these extraordinary images will now be displayed for the country’s decision-makers to see.”

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