Why We Must Bear Witness

I heard from a Holocaust survivor while I was at school. My generation might be the last who can, which is why we must bear witness.

I first met a Holocaust Survivor when I was 16.

Eva Clarke BEM was born in Mauthausen concentration camp on 29th April 1945, just days before it was liberated.

Days after this meeting, I visited the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial Museum. When allied forces swept across Europe in 1945, they liberated camp after camp.

The world swore ‘never again,’ as the horrors of the Holocaust came to light. However, time and time again, we have seen genocides taking place across the world.

We must learn from the mistakes and heartaches of our past, taking notes of the contemporary relevance of such events and ensuring the world that we, as young people, are shaping is free of persecution and prejudice.

Having worked with survivors has become an integral part of my life, and I felt it important to share some of these pivotal moments of mine, with you.

This coming Holocaust Memorial Day, we will be experiencing it like no other, where survivors will not be standing in school assembly halls or grand City Halls sharing their testimonies.

Credit - Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

I found myself looking back to HMD last year, with days spent on trains crossing backwards and forwards, up and down Scotland.

I had the privilege of spending a week with two phenomenal survivors of genocide – Janine Webber BEM and Hasan Hasanović. They had never met before, but immediately became firm friends, bouncing off of one another from their first meeting.

Janine had always been a joy to spend time with. Born in 1932 in Lwów, her family fled Nazi persecution and went into hiding.

During her time hidden in different places, she experienced the death of both of her parents and the murder of her seven-year-old brother.

I held her hand through various interviews, never tired of hearing her powerful message: “I speak for the young people.

“I want them to stand up against persecution.”

Hasan was 19 when Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July of 1995.

Whilst he was later reunited with his mother and younger brother, sadly his father and twin brother were both found in mass graves, excavated years after the war.

After long days of him having spoken his testimony, Hasan and I found ourselves sharing a few minutes sitting quietly before he was to share his testimony in HMP Barlinnie.

We talked about why testimony is so vital.

He said: “Janine’s story is my story, and hers is mine.

“We need the world to know, and we need people to be our voices.”

Survivor testimony encapsulated a power which remains unmatched. By listening and sharing, you can help the world to say, without qualification, ‘never again’.

There are so many ways that young people can bear witness to the truth in the 2021. I encourage you to harness the power of social media for good.

An incredible example of this is Dov Forman, the great-grandson of Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert BEM.

Having shared information about Lily on his Twitter account, he has allowed her testimony to reach millions worldwide.

Write a tweet, share an Instagram story, and put survivor testimony at the heart of your activism.

Kirsty speaking at an event for Holocaust Memorial Day, with a screen behind her reading 'stand together'.
Credit - East Renfrewshire Council

By sharing a name, you help to rehumanise the victims of these atrocities and defy the dehumanisation the perpetrators of genocide so often try to enforce.

I could not discuss survivor testimony without paying tribute to two people in particular - Ingrid Wuga BEM and her wonderful husband Henry Wuga MBE.

Henry and Ingrid came to Scotland via Kindertransport, met in a Jewish Refugee Social Club, and spent 75 incredible years of marriage together.

My friendship with the Wugas is the reason I feel so passionately about Holocaust education. Ingrid passed away in 2020, and her loss is felt by all those who ever had the chance to hear her speak.

By reading their testimony, you become a witness to their truth.

By sharing their messages, we can ensure that future generations know the truth of what can happen when hate goes unchecked.

Tell their story, be the light in the darkness.

To find out more about Kirsty’s work, Yet Again, please visit their website - https://yetagainuk.com/

Kirsty Robson is the Co-Executive Director and Head of Outreach for Yet Again, a youth led initiative to raise awareness of modern atrocity. Through her work in Holocaust and Genocide education and commemoration, Kirsty is steadfast in her belief that we must seek to educate on what can happen when hate goes unchecked in order to create a society free of prejudice and persecution.

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