Updated: Jan 20, 2022
Remembering Together: AJR Refugee Voices Holocaust Memorial Day Event 2022.
On January 18 we held our event for HMD. Kurt Marx, who came to the UK on a Kindertransport from Cologne on January 18, 1939, was interviewed by Dr Bea Lewkowicz about his experiences, and about his parents, who were murdered in Maly Trostenets in 1942, although it took Kurt 50 years to discover their fate. Watch a recording of the event here:
We were also joined by Dr Susanne Frane, Head of Culture and Education at the German Embassy London, Kurt’s granddaughter Johanna Marx and Cologne-based journalist Larissa Schmitz, whose discovery of Stolpersteine bearing the names of four murdered former inhabitants of her apartment block set her and her family on a journey of discovery about Cologne’s wartime past that led to a friendship with Kurt. “I never thought I would have a German friend,” Kurt told us movingly about his relationship with Larissa during the event.
In her introduction Dr Frane said:
"HMD is a powerful call to look back to the past to see the future more clearly. HMD must be far more than commemorations; it must be a spur to action. It must remind us that our liberal values, which we sometimes take for granted, are fragile and precious. They need to be earned, honoured and defended. The fight against antisemitism in words and deeds must take place on all levels, across governments, legal institutions, security forces but first and foremost across communities. We all are the most powerful weapon against this threat and we need to lead by example."
Kurt, at 96, is a powerful and impressive speaker who tells the story of his traumatic past with grace and profound humanity. “My story is nothing special,” he told us, more keen from the onset to talk about the Maly Trostenets, the camp where his parents were executed, located near Minsk in Belarus. More than two hundred thousand people may have been murdered in Maly Trostenets and Kurt is keen that more people should know about the camp. Our other interviewees Jackie Young and Otto Deutsch also had members of their families murdered there. We were honoured to have Jackie in the audience during the event.
Kurt’s Kindertransport had a unique aspect: it was organised by Dr Erich Klibansky, the headmaster of his school (the Jawne school in Cologne), who became concerned for his pupils’ welfare after the November Pogrom. More than 1100 Jewish children from Cologne were murdered during the war. Kilbansky saved many of his students but was not able to save himself or his family. They were also executed at Maly Trostenets.
Kurt talked about his past and about his hopes for the future. It was lovely to have his granddaughter Johanna with us to talk about her third generation experiences, and to hear Kurt’s wish that the next generations will continue to tell these stories. It was also wonderful to hear about his friendship with Larissa, who understands that the past isn’t over. “It’s not just history,” she told us.
Kurt ended the event with these reflections on how he has maintained his acuity, health and perspective over the years:
"I have breakfast in the morning and keep my fingers crossed. I have no solution of how to keep going. You just have to be lucky. If life is kind to you, you hang on a bit longer. As far as the rest is concerned, one realises that if people need help, one should give it to them. There are so many people now who are persecuted and prosecuted and face the hatred that is being talked about. I don’t know the answer to it but I think we must educate our children that whatever colour or background whatever you are, we must live together and try together in peace and not be jealous of other people’s success. Be kind and be helpful, that’s all I can suggest. And educate of course, that is most important."
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