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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Published: 18 February 2020

Congratulations and thanks to Dr Claire Le Foll, Director of the Parkes Institute, and colleagues, for organising and hosting the Southampton Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day 2020, on Monday 27 January, in partnership with Solent University.

The evening was very well attended and extremely poignant. It was opened by Nona McDuff OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students and Teaching) at Solent University, Professor Alex Neill, Vice President (Education) at the University of Southampton and Councillor Peter Baillie, Mayor of Southampton. This evening had very strong contemporary resonances and inspired the audience to think about urgent issues that concern all of us – refugee crises, climate change, ongoing genocides and persecutions in different parts of the world.

Dr Mark Levene, Emeritus Fellow at UoS, invited us to reflect on ‘genocidal resonances in an age of mass environmental refugeedom’. Considering this year theme, Stand Together, he concluded a very engaging talk with this urgent question: if Australia becomes the first uninhabitable continent on the planet, what will happen to its 25 million people? Are we going to ‘stand together’ to stop climate refugees from entering our countries, as we did in 1938 with Jewish refugees, or will we ‘stand together’ with them?

Students from Itchen Sixth Form College’s Creative Writing course shared responses to the testimony of Holocaust survivor William Bergman. There was a lot of indignation in their texts and powerful denunciations of everyday acts of intolerance against migrants or homosexuals as well as calls to take action against discrimination and current genocides, demonstrating the vital importance of outreach work in colleges. There was also a thoughtful and clever drama performance by two Solent students, directed by Matt Fletcher, that contrasted contemporary Jewish and British perspectives on a ship that was transporting Jewish refugees to Palestine in 1947. The Wessex Interfaith Choir also performed for the first time and sang traditional Jewish melodies with brio. The evening concluded with remarks from Stash Kozlowski on the important work carried out by Winchester and Southampton Visitors Group to support refugees and migrants.

There were also engaging exhibitions showcased on the evening from a range of contributors. Responses from local students to Holocaust testimony based on workshops led by the Parkes Institute team were displayed, and there were stands from the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group and Stand Up To Racism.

The evening was a powerful commemoration, and represented a true partnership with representation from across the University of Southampton, Solent University, local sixth form colleges, Southampton City Council, and community groups. Heartfelt thanks are due to the many people involved on the day and behind the scenes who worked so hard to make the evening a success. Thanks are due especially to Southampton’s Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day Committee, to Mike Toy and Hannah Bannatyne from Solent and also the Parkes Institute outreach team, Katie Power and Uri Agnon, who worked so hard to bring the event together. Special thanks are due to Katie Power for an outstanding job of leading on the commemorative event, and for her excellent hosting on the night itself.

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