National Holocaust Memorial Day 2022

To mark National Holocaust Memorial Day 2022, this post looks at recordings in EMOHA’s collections with people who had some experience of either the Holocaust or the effects of the Holocaust. Some of the recordings are online and you can click on the individual’s name to listen to them. Others are not online but we hope to make them available in future. 

The Leicester Oral History Archive (LOHA) started in 1982 and recorded memories of people who visited Germany before the start of World War Two (WW2) and witnessed the rise to power of the Nazis, as well as plenty of people who fought in the war. Other projects, such as those in Coalville and Market Harborough also recorded memories of people who served in the military. There are only a few recordings with people who had some experience of the Holocaust and these come from interviews that specifically asked Jewish people about their experiences of becoming refugees in the 1930s.

Berlin in 1937. National Archives of Norway, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1986/87 the LOHA interviewed seven people about being refugees during and after WW2. Within this are a few recordings with German Jews who managed to leave Germany before the outbreak of war. Eve Holden grew up in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s, and recalls the burning of her local synagogue and trying to buy her father’s release from a concentration camp. Both Ruth Goldsmith and Elfrida Munzer describe how difficult the situation became at school and in life generally. Kurt Munzer claimed asylum in Holland and then had to flee to the UK. Erti Wilford describes working as a nurse at Belsen concentration camp after the end of the war.

The Day After Kristallnacht. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1990s the Community History project in Leicester recorded five people as part of a Jewish Refugee Project. Tom Lawson left Czechoslovakia as a small child in the 1930s; Anne Kind came to Leicester from Germany in 1933 and worked as a nurse during WW2; Gerta Silverberg grew up in Breslau and came to Leicester in 1939, although an 18 month internment on the Isle of Man followed. She mentions the kindness of Mr & Mrs Attenborough (Frederick Attenborough was the principal of University College, Leicester), and doing domestic work for Mr & Mrs Millard (Mr Millard was Leicester’s Medical Office of Health). The Attenboroughs had helped with Basque refugees earlier in the 1930s and took in two Jewish refugees at the start of the war.

Most of these memories of WW2 are from childhood. The recordings go on to talk about the experience of being a refugee and of having to settle into a new country and way of life. This theme is also taken up by the Jewish Voices project, 2008, which resulted in a book and exhibition that told the stories of Leicester’s Jewish communities. At the time of writing, the exhibition can be seen in the synagogue on Highfields Street. Three recordings from the project are in EMOHA’s collections.

Also, at the University, the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has the oral history archive ‘Refugee Voices’ from the Association for Jewish Refugees, containing 150 audio-visual interviews with former refugees from Nazi Germany now living in Britain. These can be listened to by appointment and there is more information here.



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