[Blog] Preserving the power of testimony

Helen Stone
31 July 2018

When my phone rang one evening last February the voice was anxious and the tone urgent.

The caller was one of the organisers of Northwood Holocaust Memorial Day Events educational sessions. “Our speaker is unwell,” they explained. “Can you take her slot tomorrow morning?”

As one of a handful of second generation Holocaust speakers prepared and willing to present a parent’s story, I was able to step in to replace the elderly lady survivor.

The 200 or so teenagers assembled from non-Jewish schools throughout the Northwood area did still hear a highly personal account, but in a slightly different format and from a different perspective.

Every year, as Holocaust Memorial Day approaches, the number of first generation speakers dwindles, with many now in their 80s and 90s becoming too frail to fulfil their speaking commitments.

Where will that leave us in 10 or 15 years’ time?

About eighteen months ago a group of concerned people formed a new group called G2G (Generation to Generation).

Our group includes Lesley Urbach, a member of Beit Klal Yisrael and Finchley Progressive Synagogue who has put together her own presentation about her mother’s story.

We do not want to replace existing speakers but believe that it is vital that the next generation should be ready to take over the work of their parents, so that their unique memories will not be lost to young people in the future.

Our aim is to supplement the pool of first generation survivors with well-prepared, high quality second generation presenters who will make full use of modern multimedia techniques in order to engage the attention and spark the empathy of today’s teenagers.

Critics will say that this is just not the same as hearing a prime historical account and in some ways they will be right. It can never be the same. A second generation speaker can, however, bring something else. The voice may be stronger and more dynamic, while the emotion and passion that stem from the close family link are still maintained.

If you think you have a compelling story to tell of a parent who survived the Holocaust and could pass it on to young people in a powerful and engaging format, please do get in touch with G2G. Please also get in touch, if you are a synagogue looking for a speaker.

Our email address is office.g2g@yahoo.comand we look forward to hearing from you.

Share this Post