By Clare Jarmy, Head of Able, Gifted & Talented, Oxbridge, Academic Scholars & PRE
Following Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, Abi Wharton and I reflected on the Shoah – a Jewish term meaning ‘the destruction’, which has been given to the atrocities committed against Jews, and others, by the Nazi regime – at Jaw on Wednesday.
Holocaust Memorial Day is especially poignant this year, as it marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland where 1.1 million people were murdered by the Nazis.
At Jaw, we heard about Arnold Arnold (né Schmitz), a political and religious refugee and a German Jew, who came to Bedales during the 1930s on a full bursary after his family’s assets were seized. Interestingly, in his obituary, the claim was made that Bedales was – at that time – the only school that would consider accepting a Jewish student. We are not sure what, if anything, substantiates this – Eton’s Jewish Society has already celebrated a centenary, for example. Whether or not this claim is true, the perception that Bedales was unusual in having its doors open to Jewish students is an interesting one.
We also looked at a book in the Bedales Library entitled And every one was someone, which simply contains the word ‘jew’ six million times. This is an incredibly moving artefact: 4800 ‘jews’ on each page; 1250 pages in all. Each word stands for a person. This was one interesting way to remember and memorialise these events, but Abi really brought this to life with a discussion of historical memory: what can and should we do to remember such events and prevent their recurrence? What can be an appropriate response to such horrors?
Overwhelmingly, avoiding indifference is the most important thing. Many survivors of the Shoah are now elderly, and of course, each year, part of the living memory dies with those who experienced these horrors first hand. It is our job to take on the mantle of responsibility to each other to remember. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls this “remembering for the future”.