history

Holocaust Memorial Week

Procession of people with lanterns holding a handmade banner which says Holocaust Memorial

A week of remembrance

Since 2007 the University of Essex has marked Holocaust Memorial Day with a series of events taking place around the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp by Soviet troops.

Holocaust Memorial Week provides a focus for remembering the millions of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust and other victims of the Nazi persecution. We also remember victims of genocides perpetrated against targeted groups in countries such as Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Srebrenica), Sudan (Darfur) and Myanmar. It is also an opportunity for us to look at human rights issues, explore discrimination that still exists today, and lessons still to be learned by the Holocaust.

The history of Holocaust Memorial Week

Each year during Holocaust Memorial Week, a number of events take place, each reflecting a different theme. These events include talks, lectures, exhibitions, film screenings and more.

The first week with a specific theme was in 2009, when 'STAND UP TO HATRED' was chosen by the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. This theme was chosen to highlight the extreme consequences of hatred, and help us to look at our behaviour toward others and explore how each of us can help make our communities stronger and safer.

Over the years, other themes have included; disability and euthanasia, issues including prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and stigmatization, the experiences of the Roma and Sinti, the persecution of gay men under the Nazi regime, and the struggle for human rights and dignity of LGBT people since 1945.

Holocaust Memorial Week 2022

Reading of Names

On 27 January each year, we come together to remember the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides with the ‘Reading of Names’. This year, we asked our community to join this act of remembrance by recording short videos. Introduced by Professor Anthony Forster, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex.

Lantern Making Workshop

Students, staff and members of the public joined artists Tom and Iris in the Silberrad Student Centre foyer to make lanterns for the Procession of Light which took place in the evening.

Procession of Light

University of Essex staff, students and members of the public joined together for the Procession of Light. We walked across the Colchester Campus on Holocaust Memorial Day, accompanied by musicians from the Band of Fools.

The procession finished with a gathering outside the Lakeside Theatre for a moment of reflection with a poem read by Dr Marian De Vooght. Following our moment of reflection, there were refreshments for all, baked by the Good Souls Bakery in the Lakeside Café.

UK Holocaust Memorial Day: 2022 Ceremony

The UK Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 ceremony was streamed online. Households across the UK lit candles or other electronic lights and safely put them in their windows to:

  • remember those who were murdered for who they were
  • stand against prejudice and hatred today

#HolocaustMemorialDay #LightTheDarkness

Holocaust Memorial Service

University of Essex staff and students and members of our local community joined together for an online service, which included Jewish memorial prayers for the departed. There were readings and reflections in the spirit of peace and friendship. The service was led by Ruth Stone. 

Film screening and panel discussion: Son of Saul

CINE 10, our on-campus cinema screened the Oscar-winning drama set in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre and Co-Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Week Organising Committee; Professor Carla Ferstman from the School of Law and Professor Elizabeth Kuti from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies.

The Durban Diaries - 20 Years On

Our panel of speakers recalled what happened in South Africa 20 years ago from the perspective of a student participant in the NGO Forum and the author of the 'Durban Diaries', which records and recollects the events that continue to affect Jewish life today, especially on campuses. We also heard from leading members of the Jewish community in South Africa who reflected on how the events from 20 years ago affect their lives today. Other speakers focussed on student experiences of contemporary antisemitism in UK campuses and on global advocacy efforts to combat antisemitism.

Words with... Professor Wendy Lower, author of 'The Ravine: A family, a photograph, a Holocaust massacre revealed'

Our online ‘Words with…’ event was with acclaimed historian Professor Wendy Lower who talked about her book ‘The Ravine’ which explores an exceptionally rare image documenting the horrific final moment of the murder of a family during the Holocaust. 

The terrible mass shootings in Poland and Ukraine are often neglected in studies of the Holocaust because the perpetrators were meticulously careful to avoid leaving any evidence of their actions. Professor Lower stumbled across one such piece of evidence – a photograph documenting the shooting of a mother and her children and the men who killed them – and has crafted a forensically brilliant and moving study that brings the larger horror of the genocide into focus.

Following the talk, Dr Joanna Rzepa from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies and Co-Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Week Organising Committee was ‘in conversation’ with Professor Lower about her research for ‘The Ravine’ and our audience had a chance to ask questions.

Don Kipper

The Lakeside Theatre audience enjoyed a special Holocaust Memorial Week performance from the award-winning Klezmer band, Don Kipper.

Harwich and the Kindertransport

This event was postponed and will now take place in January 2023 - the 85th Anniversary of the Kindertransport.

Staff and students from the University of Essex were invited to visit the Harwich Museum to hear more about the role of the Port of Harwich, just 13 miles from Colchester, in the Kindertransport and to find out more about the Harwich Museum.

Mike Levy, Author and Chair of The Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust planned to give a talk on ‘Harwich and the Kindertransport’ whilst giving audience members a chance to ask questions. David Whittle, Curator, had planned to talk more about the Harwich Museum and Nigel Spencer DL, Founder and Vice Chair of The Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust was due to tell us more about this fascinating project to create a new memorial statue and a supporting educational programme in Harwich.

The visit had planned to finish with a walk to the site of the new memorial.

Holocaust Memorial Day Annual Service of Commemoration: Southend

Members of the Southend-on-Sea community gathered for their annual service of commemoration to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

There was music, reflections, a presentation from a local secondary school, poetry and an address by Mr Bernie Graham.

Tree-planting ceremony: Southend

The Worshipful the Mayor of Southend, Councillor Margaret Borton, along with the Jewish Community, planted a tree at the junction of Carnarvon Road and Victoria Avenue, in memory of those who perished in the Nazi death camps and in other genocides across the world. 

Exhibitions - ‘Stars Without a Heaven Children in the Holocaust’ and ‘Pogrom - November 1938’: Southend

Holocaust Memorial Day Exhibitions were on display at the Forum, Elmer Square, Southend, from Monday 10 January – Tuesday 25 January.  The exhibitions were then relocated at the Civic Centre for the service of commemoration on Wednesday 26th January.

Library and Cultural Services

  • Joe Chaplin from the Albert Sloman Library has written an in-depth blog post: Dive into History: Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Natalie Clubb compiled a Holocaust timeline in Padlet.
  • Colleagues from the Albert Sloman Library created a reading list for Holocaust Memorial Week.
  • Amy Zahl Gottlieb Collection: Amy Zahl Gottlieb worked from 1944 to 1952 for the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF), then went to America to take up a post at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign where she started a programme in holocaust education and returned to Britain in the late 1980s to act as the CBF’s honorary historian and archivist. She donated her personal library, and some 46 reels of microfilm, reproducing the Archives of the Central British Fund and the text of the Jewish Chronicle from 1937 to 1939, to the Library in 2002. The collection contains approximately 200 books relating to the Holocaust, Jewish history, and Anti-Semitism. It also contains books on a range of historic topics, including several works on American immigration.

Holocaust Memorial Day – The Genocide in Cambodia

Reverend Sara Batts-Neale, University Chaplain, recalls how she learned, aged seven, of the genocide taking place in Cambodia. She reflects on this experience and her own visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, in 2015.

Professor Rainer Schulze
"The awareness that work for greater tolerance, for human dignity and human rights starts on our doorsteps, in our schools and in our local communities."
Professor Rainer Schulze Department of history

Holocaust Memorial Week 2021

Reading of Names

Each year on Holocaust Memorial Day, we come together to remember the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides with the ‘Reading of Names’. This year, we asked our community to join this act of remembrance by recording short video clips. Images of Rwandan victims by kind permission of the Genocide Archive of Rwanda.

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust – UK Holocaust Memorial Day: 2021 Ceremony

The UK Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 ceremony was streamed online. This was their first fully digital ceremony. Households across the UK lit candles and put them in their windows to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against prejudice and hatred today.

The Nuremberg Trials 75 Years On: Precedents, Catalysts and Inevitable Limitations

Our online panel of eminent experts looked back on the legal precedents set at Nuremberg, some of the major innovations of the trials and some of their inevitable limitations.

Friday Evening Service

Members of the local community joined University of Essex staff and students as we held an online service, based on an evening synagogue service. There were readings and reflections, in the spirit of peace and friendship and the service was led by Alex Bennett.

Combatting Antisemitism: Challenges and Opportunities

As part of the annual Holocaust Remembrance Week programme, the University of Essex hosted an online panel discussion to examine the challenges and opportunities for combating antisemitism from the perspective of actors who have been engaged in addressing antisemitism and promoting societal cohesion. The panel discussion covered national contexts and international perspectives as well as insights drawn from education, interfaith engagement and promotion of human rights.

Forgotten Rescuers - the origins of the Kindertransport 1938-39

The Kindertransport, the flight to Britain of 10,000 mostly Jewish children from the persecution of the Nazis, is usually associated with the British stockbroker Nicholas Winton. He managed to save 6% of the children - who saved the other 94%? As part of his online talk, Mike Levy told the little-known stories of the Rabbi, the Dutch aunt, the Quaker and the German department store owner - crucial instigators of this unique act of rescue.

Watch a recording of this talk.

The Holocaust and Gender: Memory and Representation

Dr Joanna Rzepa, Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies spoke at an online event organised by the University of Essex Human Rights Society. At the start of the event, Professor Rainer Schulze gave a brief history of Holocaust Memorial Week at the University of Essex.

Colchester Holocaust Memorial Programme 2021

The Colchester Holocaust Memorial Day Group posted a series of videos online. You can view these online via YouTube and Instagram.

Holocaust Memorial Day Online Service of Commemoration - Southend

This event was an online service, with an introduction by Cllr Kevin Robinson, Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Working Party.

The Albert Sloman Library

  • Joe Chaplin from the Albert Sloman Library wrote an in-depth blog post: Dive into History: Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Natalie Clubb from the Albert Sloman Library compiled a Holocaust timeline in Padlet.
  • Colleagues from the Albert Sloman Library created a reading list for Holocaust Memorial Week.
  • Amy Zahl Gottlieb Collection: Amy Zahl Gottlieb worked from 1944 to 1952 for the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF), then went to America to take up a post at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign where she started a programme in Holocaust education, and returned to Britain in the late 1980s to act as the CBF’s honorary historian and archivist. She donated her personal library, and some 46 reels of microfilm, reproducing the Archives of the Central British Fund and the text of the Jewish Chronicle from 1937 to 1939, to the Library in 2002. The collection contains approximately 200 books relating to the Holocaust, Jewish history, and Anti-Semitism. It also contains books on a range of historic topics, including several works on American immigration.


Holocaust Memorial Week 2020

Holocaust Memorial Week 2020 marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, the University community joined together to remember those killed in the Holocaust and other genocides at the Reading of Names in Square 4 from 1pm-2pm. Throughout Holocaust Memorial Day, our staff and students were able to join artist Maggie Campbell to make a willow lantern for the Procession of Light which was held later in the afternoon. The procession was led across campus by musicians and finished outside the Lakeside Theatre where staff, students and members of the local community gathered for a moment of reflection, followed by refreshments in the Lakeside Theatre Café.  In the evening, a screening of ‘Prosecuting Evil’ was held in the Lakeside Theatre followed by a discussion, led by Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre.

As part of the Holocaust Memorial Week programme, Dr Roman Nieczyporowski from the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts visited the University and presented his new talk ‘Art and the Memory of the Holocaust’ and Don Kipper gave a special Holocaust Memorial Week performance in the Lakeside Theatre.

The Dora Love prize, awarded each year for the best Holocaust awareness project by an individual pupil or group of pupils at a school in Essex or Suffolk, was presented during Holocaust Memorial Week. The 8th Dora Love Prize was won by the Colchester County High School for Girls with runners-up prizes awarded to Northgate High School in Ipswich and SET Saxmundham.

As part of the week’s programme, Anthony Clavane from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies led a discussion ‘Bigger than ourselves: How football can help to challenge racism’ and Professor Lars Waldorf from the School of Law gave a talk on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

Later on in the week, students from the Human Rights Society lead a roundtable discussion: ‘Burning of Books: Intolerance of Progress and of Diversity of Opinion’ which started with an opening statement from Professor Rainer Schulze, Emeritus Professor from the Department of History and later that evening, the University hosted a panel discussion on ‘The State of Antisemitism Today’.

Holocaust Memorial Week 2020 finished with University of Essex staff and students joining members of the local community for a Friday Evening Service.

Two students in conversation
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