Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Kindness and the Imperial War Museum

On Friday afternoon, John Collins from the Imperial War Museum North, http://north.iwm.org.uk/ paid his second visit to The Morris Feinmann Home. For the discussion, we suggested the theme of ‘Why the Jews?’ John brought in documents and handling materials from the Museum, then started the discussion with Hitler’s rise to power and the harrowing impact it had on the Jews. We investigated evidence of Anti-Semitism and possible reasons for it.

Before the discussion I felt nervous about sitting with a group of elderly Jewish people and posing the question, ‘why you?’ Many of the participants had been directly affected by the Holocaust. However, everyone seemed to be keen to discuss the question. It was an incredibly moving afternoon. John was eloquent and knowledgeable in his presentation and during his talk I watched woman who had experienced events first hand in Berlin, nodding in agreement and sharing their memories. One of the most moving moments, was when John showed us some replica callipers, and how they where used by the Nazis to measure racial purity and therefore human value. A woman who hadn’t spoken until then, said quietly and with matter of fact, that they had been used on her. I spoke with her later, and she explained that when she had left Berlin, the family went to live in Holland, where at school her teacher had used the callipers to measure the skulls of any of the children who where suspected or known to be Jewish. To know some of the history is one thing, but to meet the people who experienced it is quite another.

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