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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Life as a Child Refugee: Hanna Zack Miley and Smajo Bešo in Conversation Seminar

Kindertransport sculpture in Berlin
18:00 - 19:30
20 July 2021

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Parkes Institute at .

Event details

Part of the Parkes Seminar Series 2020/21. All welcome.

Until very recently, there have been limited attempts in Britain to draw parallels between the experiences of Jewish and Bosnian child refugees. In May 2021, however, the BBC2 series Saved by a Stranger broadcast an episode bringing these two stories together on screen.

This event will explore the personal memories of refugee children from Germany and Bosnia. In July 1939, 7-year-old Hanna Zack Miley arrived in Britain. Over half-a-century later, in 1994, 9-year-old Smajo Bešo and his family arrived in this country. Hanna and Smajo will discuss their personal memories and attempts to reconcile their past experiences. Both have travelled back to their former homelands to reconnect with their childhood surroundings. Each has conducted extensive research, given numerous talks to many different audiences, and written about their childhood experiences. In reflecting on their personal experiences, Hanna and Smajo have learnt about other refugees’ experiences. In the 1990s, Hanna visited Bosnia, whilst Smajo has given several talks alongside Holocaust survivors.

Professor Bill Niven will offer reflections on the processes of reconciliation, focusing on events in Germany. He will discuss the different forms that reconciliation can take, including official apologises and reparation. Bill will emphasise the importance of direct dialogue between genocide survivors and the countries that caused their suffering.

The talk will conclude with a specially commissioned artwork created by Caroline Slifkin which responds to Hanna and Smajo’s stories. Caroline will speak about her creative process and the meanings behind her artwork.


Hanna Zack Miley was born in 1932 into a Jewish family who lived in the Eifel region of Germany. As Nazi violence against Jews escalated, her parents, Markus and Amalie, sought ways to escape. In July 1939, they placed 7-year-old Hanna on a Kindertransport to Britain. Unable to leave, Markus and Amalie were ultimately deported to the ghetto in Lodz, Poland, and murdered in Chełmno on May 3, 1942.

Smajo Bešo was born in Bosnia on 29 March 1985. His early childhood was idyllic; he grew up under a beautiful mountain, surrounded by nature. He was 9 years old when he and his family came to Britain as refugees from the war in Bosnia, where Muslims had been the victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The refugee centre on Linden Road in Newcastle was a place of reunion because here the family were brought back together again.

Bill Niven is Professor Emeritus of Contemporary German History at Nottingham Trent University. He is the author of Facing the Nazi Past (2001) and Hitler and Film (2018), and, with Amy Williams, is currently writing a book on the Kindertransport for Yale University Press. His book on the postwar history of the Nazi film Jud Süβ will appear with Mitteldeutscher Verlag next year.

Caroline Slifkin is an artist and a Holocaust educator who specialises in teaching about the Holocaust through Holocaust Art. She is a Fellow of the Imperial War Museum, London, in Holocaust Education, with a project examining ‘Art in the Shadow of Death’; a Fellow of Royal Holloway, University of London, in Holocaust and Jewish Civilisation; and a freelance educator for the Holocaust Educational Trust. During the first COVID lockdown in 2020, Caroline and Amy Williams started their artistic project entitled ‘Keepsakes of the Kindertransport’ to find creative ways to share stories.

The event will be chaired by Dr Chad McDonald and Dr Amy Williams . Chad is a Visiting Fellow at the Parkes Institute, University of Southampton, and Academic & Study Skills Tutor for Arts and Humanities at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is the curator of the award-winning travelling exhibition ‘James Parkes and the Age of Intolerance’, which has visited Christian, Jewish, and civic venues throughout Britain. Amy is currently writing her first book on the Kindertransport for Mitteldeutscher Verlag, and she is co-authoring a book with Bill Niven on the Kindertransport for Yale University Press. She has curated several travelling exhibitions focusing on the Kindertransport.

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