In this Friday’s assembly, pupils were asked to reflect on the meaning of the Holocaust Memorial Day, which is observed annually in the UK on the 27th January.

Every year, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust focuses on a different theme to remember different aspects of the Holocaust. This year, its theme ‘Torn from Home’ aims to encourage people to reflect on how someone would experience the enforced loss of a place to call ‘home’. Home usually means a place of safety, comfort and security. What happens when individuals, families and communities are driven out of their home because of persecution and the threat of murder? How can the survivors build new homes when the genocide is over?

Two of our KPS Lower School pupils, Rose DeLeon and Eva Tasdemir, spoke about their own grandparents’ experience of losing their home due to Nazi persecution, how they survived and how they built new homes after the genocide. Rose’s grandfather Richard Parasol escaped from a ghetto in Poland, became a “Hidden Child” throughout World War II and managed to build a new life in Israel and later in the US. Mr. Parasol has set up the Parasol Foundation. He tirelessly shares his experience with many people to keep history alive, and for people to listen to a testimony from a living witness.

Eva’s grandfather Gregory Fridland was born to a Russian Jewish family. He was 17 when the war broke out and he fought against Nazism by infiltrating the German army as a spy. This experience was incredibly traumatic; for many years he had to live every day with people who spoke with hatred against Jews, and were describing how they were being exterminated. He came close to being caught many times. After the war was over, he could not find any traces of his family. Mr. Fridland got married and built a new home in Siberia with his wife. His war experience was so traumatic that he was reluctant to speak to his children and grandchildren about it in detail.

Every year the Holocaust Memorial Day brings thousands of people together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. Thank you to Rose, Eva and their families for sharing their stories.