Tuesday 22 November 2011

The Holocaust Centre

I visited the Holocaust Centre yesterday. It is a really good museum and appropriate memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. I managed to get to talk to one of the survivors, Ruth Barnett. Like my mother-in-law, she survived by coming to England. She experienced similar feelings of unworthiness that my main character shows in my novel.
The two exhibitions at the Centre are very impressive: the Holocaust Exhibition and the Journey. The main exhibition is quite hard-hitting. It seems likely, from what I read there, that Clara Lehrs was shot, not gassed. That seems quite frightening but actually being gassed was not a pleasant way to die. Many victims lingered for quite a while.
The Journey is aimed at KS3 children and gives a real sense of what it might have been like to be a Jew in hiding and then a child on the Kindertransport. It is an extremely well thought-out exhibition. It replicates a German house where a Jewish family lived, a German school room, complete with picture of Hitler on the wall, a street scene on Kristall Nacht, a Jewish tailor’s shop with a hiding place, and a railway carriage which show films about the Kindertransport and the transportation to concentration and death camps. The final room is an exhibition. Throughout the Journey, one hears extracts for Leo’s diary. Leo is a young German Jew who starts to find life difficult and is then brought to England on the Kindertransport.
There are many opportunities to listen to and read survivor reports throughout the museum. The library also has a vast collection of many more. Normally, if there is a school group visiting, a survivor comes to speak and if there is enough space, the general public can listen as well.
The Memorial gardens are beautifully peaceful and provide a good space for some quiet contemplation. Over 800 people have planted white roses in memory of an individual who perished in the Holocaust.  A pity we did not know about this in time to do something for Clara Lehrs. But perhaps we can find something similar or start our own initiative.
If you know me, you will not be surprised that I bought three more books whilst there.     
I’m hoping to get there again. I was really well looked after by all of the staff there yesterday.          

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