Present generations must keep remembrance of the Shoah
In Johannesburg the commemoration took place at the Holocaust and Genocide Centre last week Thursday, with the lighting of memorial candles by survivors and clips of songs and choral music composed in the death camps. (The day is internationally designated as January 27.)
Tali Nates, director of the JHGC, welcomed ambassadors from Israel, Bulgaria, Russia and Rwanda, as well as other members of the diplomatic corps from Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic and representatives of the United Nations Information Centre and the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.
The theme, for 2017, said Nates, was “Holocaust Remembrance: Educating for a Better Future”.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz – the complex of camps including Birkenau with its four gas chambers – one of over 40 000 camps in Europe; Auschwitz has become the symbol of the Holocaust.
Anita Ohi-Meyer, head of cultural affairs and sports, climate and protocol at the German embassy, paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. “We take responsibility for our history,” she said.
Dr Shirli Gilbert, co-director of the Parkes Institute for Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton, who is a world authority on music in Europe between the periods 1933 and 1945, was the keynote speaker.
Gilbert’s said each camp and ghetto had its own internal scenarios, with hope, sense of despair or anger. “Cultural life in the ghettos offered insight into the prisoners’ diverse experiences and perspectives,” she said.
Gilbert played songs recorded by David Boder, a Latvian psychologist who travelled to displaced persons’ centres in 1946 and recorded the voices of many young Holocaust survivors. The collection is now in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
A piano trio by the Russian-Jewish composer Mikhail Gnesin in memory of children who perished [SG1] and “No Raisins, No Almonds”, a song composed in the Lodz Ghetto, were some of the works performed. The Peat Bog Soldiers Song, premiered in 1933 at a variety show, was an early example of German political prisoners’ protesting against their Nazi oppressors.
The music, Gilbert said, also gave a glimpse into the experiences of those who did not survive. Gnesin’s “To the Memory of Our Dead Children” (1943) was premiered in January 2017 at Wigmore Hall, London, at a concert she organised there. Gideon Klein’s recently-discovered work, “The Poplar Tree” was also featured at the concert.
Gilbert’s book, Music in the Holocaust, focuses on four Nazi internment camps.
Cape Town marked the Remembrance Day at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre last Sunday.
Guest speaker was Hannah Lessing, general secretary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria and the Fund for the Restoration of Jewish Cemeteries in Austria. She spoke on Austria dealing with past restitution and the future of remembrance.
Lessing’s grandmother, Margit Lessing, was deported, first to Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz, where she was gassed on arrival.
In 2001, as a member of the Austrian delegation, Lessing participated in the negotiations on compensation issues which led to a joint statement in Washington in 2001. Following this agreement, the General Settlement Fund for Victims of National Socialism was established to achieve a comprehensive resolution for victims of National Socialism.
Lessing is also Austria’s representative on the International Committee of the Auschwitz Foundation. She has lectured extensively on Austrian and international Holocaust remembrance work.
The Durban Holocaust Centre held its commemoration last week Tuesday at the Centre.
Professor Stuart Taberner of the University of Leeds, spoke on teaching the Holocaust from a distance. The title was: “Germany’s confrontation with the Holocaust in a global context in the UK, US and South Africa”.