Jan 26 2010 By Siba Matti
Holocaust survivors will once again share their experiences as part of an annual memorial day.
More than six million Jews were persecuted at the hands of the Nazi regime and today is 65 years since the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945.
About 2,000 children from 33 schools across Hillingdon, Harrow and Hertfordshire will commemorate the anniversary at Holocaust Memorial Day events in Northwood – the largest in the UK – organised by Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, in Oaklands Gate, and Northwood United Synagogue, in Murray Road.
Ann Kirk, 81, of Maxwell Road, Northwood, was just 10 when she had to leave her parents behind in Germany in 1938 and escape to England, with the help of the Kindertransport organisation.
Together with her husband, Bob, 84, with whom she has two sons and three grandchildren, she has retold her painful memories every year at the Northwood HMD events since their inception nine years ago.
Mrs Kirk said: "The Holocaust has become part of history but it's so important that the world never forgets what happened and never underestimates the danger of racial prejudice and discrimination – that's exactly why we share our experiences.
"Bob and I are among the lucky ones. Many years later, we learned that our parents had been taken to concentration camps, and we can only wonder what happened to them. For a long time, it was too painful to talk about – the imagination can play havoc on your mind.
"The real turning point was Kristallnacht – life changed very dramatically for Jewish people after that. It is a term coined by the Germans and translates as crystal night, referring to the broken glass all over the streets after Jewish homes and businesses were broken into and looted. Many Jews tried to emigrate but it was far from easy.
"One of my most vivid memories is my parents and I saying our final goodbyes at a train station in Germany. After I boarded, they got a taxi two stations ahead so we could see each other one last time.
"Our experiences often bring people to tears and many pupils are very upset by the idea of children leaving their parents, and how terribly cruel the Nazis were."
Mr Kirk, who was only 13 when he left his parents in Germany to move to England, added: "The veneer of civilisation is surprisingly thin and could crack at any moment, so it is crucial we educate the youth of today so they can tell our story, in the hope it never happens again.
"Most of the survivors are getting very old, so it's important the message is passed on – we owe it to our parents and everyone who perished."
Northwood Holocaust Memorial Day events take place over four days from next Tuesday, February 2.
In a joint statement, the committee who organises the events said: "We recognise that the Holocaust must have a permanent place in the nation's collective memory.
"Humanity is scarred by the belief that race, religion, gender, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, racism, xenophobia and discrimination continue in the world today.
"Students will hear first hand testimonies from Holocaust survivors and explore attitudes about prejudice in the hope that they become more tolerant individuals."
For more information, visit www.northwoodhmd.org.uk