How will today’s younger generations keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in years to come?
That was the key question posed to more than 30 young people, aged between 16 and 25, who gathered at JW3 in London this week to discuss David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission.
The Board of Deputies’ Youth Consultation, which marked the first of a series of public meetings to gather community responses to the national commission, asked school pupils and university students for ideas on how to improve Holocaust commemoration.
“We must ensure that in 70 years or more, people will be remembering it as if they were there,” the Holocaust Commission’s chair Mick Davis told participants. “That is why your generation is so important: you have the closest connection to future generations.”
Following introductions by Mr Davis and the Board of Deputies’ senior vice president Laura Marks, Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, took to the floor – leading a series of discussions on how to improve and facilitate Holocaust remembrance.
For Daniel Gerszt, a 20-year-old student at Birmingham University, it was not enough to teach the Holocaust as a normal part of the school curriculum. “A whole day could be devoted to Holocaust remembrance, when students watch films or visit museums. A quick, sharp burst of education would make a big difference,” he said.
Naomi Ackerman, 22, an RSY youth movement leader, said it was important to remove the element of “fear” from remembrance. “I think that many Jews have an almost existential terror that it could happen again. That can be very corrosive to education.”
Rachel Vogler, 18, a JFS student, argued that the memory of the Shoah should be used to improve people’s awareness of global genocide. She said: “You have to make social action an integral part of Holocaust education. We all know genocide is still happening today.”
Other suggestions included the use of holograms of survivors giving testimonies and interactive websites to search names and places.
UJS president Joe Tarsh described the evening as "inspiring", while 16-year-old Sophie Jacobs, a GCSE student at South Hampstead High School, said it instilled in her a sense of responsibility.
“We’re the last generation who will have contact with survivors," she said. "I definitely feel responsibility to make their stories known.”
Participants were encouraged to enter an essay-writing competition on the importance of remembrance. The winner will sit on the commission as its permanent youth member.