The Power of Words: St Helens Libraries and Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted 6 Feb 2018 by Guest blog writer in Latest Libraries News

Most library services have an exhibition or a talk or two to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day but St Helens went several steps further this year. In this piece, Amanda Brown takes us through their impressive events ...

"Each January, St Helens Library Service commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day. This year’s theme ‘The Power of Words’ prompted us to create displays featuring related book stock, and also influenced a range of activities which were delivered across our libraries.

David Scott

David Scott HMDTo launch the Holocaust commemorations, Manchester poet David Scott, also known as ‘Argh Kid’, visited Parr Library to deliver poetry workshops to both primary and secondary pupils. David led two workshops that involved a re-understanding of what poetry is, by showing pupils different examples of poetry in a modern day landscape. This was then followed by the analysis of Holocaust poems, discussing imagery, language sound and rhythm.

Class visits

The theme ‘The Power of Words’ inspired a class visit offer to local schools, based on the powerful memoir ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank. Over 350 Year 6 pupils visited their local library to learn about the Nazi attempt to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews using propaganda and persecution. The first part of the session focused on how it felt to be a Jewish child and be denied basic human rights such as riding a bicycle, owning a pet or swimming in a public swimming pool. The children considered their own lives today and the activities they like to enjoy, and how they would feel if they were told they were not allowed to take part in them.

HMD class visitThe second part of the visit focused on the life of Anne Frank. Library staff talked about Anne’s life after she went into hiding with her family, read out an excerpt of the book ‘Diary of a young girl’ and the children were encouraged to read aloud a selection of powerful and inspiring quotes written by Anne Frank herself.

Library staff ended the visit by explaining the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day, to remember the millions of people who had been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The clear message learned from the visit was to end hatred and learn lessons from the past when people were treated badly, to prevent it from happening again. The visit concluded with the lighting of a candle and a minute’s silent reflection.

Small Cinema

HMD Woman in GoldSt Helens Library Service provides regular screenings of films as part of the touring cinema project ‘Small Cinema’. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Newton le Willows Library presented a screening of ‘Woman in Gold’ starring Helen Mirren, which tells the extraordinary true story of Maria Altmann as she attempts to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis during World War 2. The film was well received by the attending audience.

Rescues of the Holocaust Exhibition

Rescues of the Holocaust HMDSt Helens Library Service has been extremely fortunate in acquiring exhibitions from a number of organisations to support Holocaust Memorial Day over the last six years. This year was no exception and ‘Rescues of the Holocaust’ focused on the fascinating stories of Bertha Bracey, Wilfred Israel, Ida and Louise Cook and Raoul Wallenburg who undertook remarkable rescue efforts to save lives imperilled by the Nazi regime. The exhibition was loaned from The Weiner Library and was displayed firstly in Rainhill Library and then Haydock Library. To launch the exhibition, staff in each library organised a candle lighting event attending by members of the public. Local musician Julia Cadman performed a unique choral composition at the event, based on the Primo Levi poem, ‘If this is a Man’

Civic Ceremony

HMD civic ceremonyFinally, the library service helped to organise the civic Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, held at the Town Hall on Friday 26th January. Children from both primary and secondary schools were invited to perform songs, poems and readings, inviting attendees to reflect and consider The Power of Words, and how they impact on us and those around us. This formal commemoration, attended by dignitaries such as The Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, The Mayor & Mayoress, St Helens Council Leader, MPs, local councillors, representatives of organisations and members of the public, was a poignant and emotional ceremony but also gave a sense of hope to audience members from the local community.

St Helens Library Service is proud to support Holocaust Memorial Day by delivering events and activities to remember people who have died in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. St Helens Library Service will continue to challenge hatred, embrace diversity and work within our community to create a safer better future."

HMD choir

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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