AJR runs inter-generational Shoah conference

AJR runs inter-generational Shoah conference

For Jewish News October 8 2021

Hundreds of people, both in person and on-line, took part in an international two day conference at the weekend under the auspices of the Association of Jewish Refugees.

The focus of the conference — whose physical event took place at Chelsea Football Club in west London — was “Connecting Next Generations”, through politics, culture, legacy and literature. The event was sponsored by the Chelsea Foundation and the Jewish News.

Debra Barnes, a key official at the AJR, and who chaired many of the sessions, runs the My Story life book project and now leads work on the charity’s Next Generations initiative. She is Second Generation; her mother was a hidden child in France and lost most of her family at Auschwitz. Debra has written her family story as a novel, The Young Survivors, and tells her mother’s story for Generation 2 Generation and the Jewish Book Week Authors in Schools programme.

Many of the conference panellists in the different sessions were telling personal stories for the first time. Very often the story was the same: their parents, the survivors themselves, had not spoken about their experiences, either at all, or until very late in life. In contrast, the Third Generation, the grandchildren of survivors, often had more luck in persuading their family members to talk about what had happened to them during the Holocaust.

The Second and Third Generation and their different understandings of the Shoah were encapsulated in an introductory conversation between William Baginsky, the AJR’s Board of Deputies representative, and his daughter, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, chief executive of Liberal Judaism.

Sessions followed on keeping the stories alive from generation to generation, and an address by Lord Pickles, head of the UK delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The keynote address was delivered by Dr Irit Felsen, an Israeli but American based clinical psychologist, specialising in trauma and loss, with a particular focus on Holocaust survivors and their families.

Teenager Dov Forman and his great-grandmother Lily Ebert have become an internet sensation with their Sunday Times bestseller, Lily’s Promise. In conversation with Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive, Karen Pollock CBE, the two discussed using social media to find out more about Lily’s story.

Monday’s events “kicked off” with a presentation from Simon Taylor, head of the Chelsea Foundation and the efforts of the football club to combat antisemitism.

There followed a session on the legacy of objects, documents and photographs, with participation from archivists and curators from the Wiener Holocaust Library, the National Holocaust Centre and the Imperial War Museums, chaired by David Glasser, executive chair of the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum.

  • 7 October, 2021