Jonathan Kennedy, is Head of Humanities at Belle Vue Girls’ Academy. He accompanied a number of his students to the National Holocaust Memorial Day event at City Hall in London on 27 January. The ceremony was broadcast live on the BBC.
I found the Holocaust Memorial Commemoration to be an extremely powerful event and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The dignity of the survivors was remarkable. They were living testimony to the maxim ‘living well is the best revenge’. Arek Hersh’s powerful retelling of his experiences in Auschwitz was profoundly moving, and his account of the disdain shown by the Nazi guard who threw food to a dog, rather than give it to him, summarised the brutality of the perpetrators aptly and contrasted with the dignity of those who survived.
The theme of ‘Stand Together’ was demonstrated through the inclusion of other genocides such as Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. I was profoundly moved by the testimony of Ian Forsyth who served with the 11th Armoured Division which liberated Bergen-Belsen. His message of cutting off hated and prejudice at the first sign, rather than allowing it to incubate and spread, was a timely reminder of our duties as citizens. My school, Belle Vue Girls’ Academy, was given this wonderful opportunity to share in the national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration by the Anne Frank Trust. The Anne Frank Trust have provided outstanding opportunities for my students to develop leadership skills and to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten. The partnership with the Anne Frank Trust has enabled my students to stand up to racism, prejudice and extremism. I am convinced that participation in Anne Frank Trust programmes, and the attendance at the national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration, has had a transformational and life-changing impact on my students and strengthened their commitment to standing together against extremism. I hope to continue to work with the Anne Frank Trust in the future.