To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 on 27th January, this week we will be sharing items from the Seven Stories Collection that reflect and embody this year’s theme ‘Be the Light in the Darkness’. It is both an affirmation and a call to action for us to stand in solidarity and choose to be the light in the darkness wherever we are.  

Image: Illustration from When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1971

In 1933 Judith Kerr’s father Alfred received a phone call to warn him that his passport was about to be confiscated by the Nazi party. Alfred Kerr was a popular Berlin journalist who openly criticised the Nazis as they rose to power. He also happened to be Jewish. Some of his friends thought he was overreacting when he packed a bag and left the country immediately. His wife and children followed him a few days later.

In resisting the lies and hatred spread by the Nazi party as they rose to power, Alfred and his wife Julia lost their livelihood, their home and their friends.

From When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit: ‘It’s quite simple,’ said Mama. ‘Papa thinks Hitler and the Nazis might win the elections. If that happened he would not want to live in Germany while they were in power, and nor would any of us.’

Image: Extract from Göbbelchen, a poem by Olive Dehn, 1933.

Olive Dehn was a British children’s writer and poet. When she was 18 she went to stay with her Jewish aunt and uncle who lived in Germany. She was horrified by the lies being spread about Jewish people by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda. She wrote the poem Göbbelchen in protest, and sent it to Punch magazine in London to be published but the letter was intercepted by the Nazi party. Olive was arrested by the Gestapo and sent back to England.

Undeterred, she remained an activist in the defence of liberty for the rest of her life.

Excerpt from the manuscript for The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo, Walker Books, 2007.

Between 1941 and 1945 the Nazi regime imprisoned and murdered millions of Jews along with millions of other people who did not ‘fit’ with Hitler’s vision for Europe. Eighty years later it is still difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend this genocide. When children and young people ask us to explain the Holocaust, we can reach for trusted authors to help us. #michaelmorpurgo

The Nazis often set up orchestras in the concentration camps where they housed prisoners. The musicians were humiliatingly ordered to play whilst atrocities were carried out, as well as to simply entertain the guards. Of the musicians who survived, many were too broken-hearted to play again. In The Mozart Question, Michael Morpurgo sensitively explores the effects of playing in such an orchestra on the lives of two violinists.

Illustration by Fritz Wegner from The Tale of the Turnip by Brian Alderson, Walker Books, 1999

Fritz Wegner was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria in 1924. When the Nazi regime took control of Austria in 1938, 13-year-old Fritz drew a little caricature of Hitler to amuse his classmates. His pro-Nazi teacher found it and reacted violently. Fritz’s parents realised how dangerous life was becoming for anyone who spoke out against the Nazis, even a schoolchild, so they booked him onto a train to London. Luckily they were able to join him later, along with his sister.

Fritz entered the UK as a refugee and his talent as an artist gained him a place at St Martin’s School of Art. Throughout his life he illustrated over fifty books for children, becoming a household favourite for his work with Allan Ahlberg. Offering opportunities to refugees enriches the cultural life of a country.

To find out more about Holocaust Memorial Day then please head to the HMD website.

Discover more in the Seven Stories Collection.

#bethelightinthedarkness #hmd2021