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.
To 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.
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.
The 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
St 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
St 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’
Finally, 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."