Exhibition and talks tell Holocaust survivors’ moving stories

Exhibition held in County Durham to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in previous years

Two Holocaust survivors will mark Holocaust Memorial Day by sharing touching accounts of their escape from persecution.

County Durham will host three free events, organised by Durham County Council in partnership with Durham Cathedral and the Holocaust Educational Trust, as part of Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place across the world every year on 27 January and is a date to remember the millions of people who were murdered and persecuted during the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

This year Holocaust Memorial Day marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.

Between Monday 20 and Friday 31 January,Peterlee’s East Durham College will host a free exhibition to honour the victims of genocide. The display will feature photographic images as well as archives from the Durham Light Infantry collection. Artwork from school, community and faith groups will be on display as well. Visitors will also have a chance to learn more about the Porrajmos, which translates to ‘the Devouring’, the term used to describe the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population.

The exhibition will be open from 8.30am to 5pm on Monday, from 8.30 to 9pm Tuesday to Thursday and from 8.30 to 4.30pm on Friday.

The college will also host a poignant talk on Monday 27 January, when Gabriele Keenaghan will describe how her grandmother secured her a place on a Kindertransport train from Austria to the UK in 1939.

Gabriele, was recently awarded the British Empire Medal by the Queen for her services to Holocaust education and awareness, and will be joined by pupils from East Durham College and The Academy at Shotton Hall who will sing and perform poetry.

The event is free to attend but tickets are required. Places can be booked online at www.durham.gov.uk/hmd. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

Also on 27 January 2020, from 1pm to 3pm, Durham Cathedral will host an educational event for secondary school pupils from across the county.

Hungarian-born Tomi Komoly will speak at the event, giving a first-hand account of his experiences during World War II. Tomi will talk about how his family was torn apart when his father was called up to the forced labour unit of the Hungarian Army.

Tomi will also share stories about his time in a walled ghetto, his escape with his mother in 1944 and liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the talk but are advised that seating will be limited and available on a first come first served basis. Spaces cannot be pre-booked.

Cllr Angela Surtees, the council’s Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “Holocaust Memorial Day provides us with an opportunity to honour the survivors of genocide and to remember the victims of these tragic episodes.

“It is an honour to be able to listen to Gabriele and Tomi sharing their testimonies. Events like these offer a chance to reflect on what can happen as a result of discrimination and are massively important in educating people about the real-life effects of prejudice.

“By promoting tolerance and equality we aim to eradicate hate crime and to create a cohesive and inclusive community across County Durham.”

Further information about Holocaust Memorial Day in County Durham is available at www.durham.gov.uk/hmd

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