January Object of the Month Blog
The Little Suitcase and Holocaust Memorial Day
This month’s Object of the Month is a little suitcase that belonged to a lady named Ursula Michel (26/10/1923 – 08/08/2011) and accompanied her on one of the last Kindertransport trains fleeing Nazi rule from Ludwigshafen, Germany to England on 25th August 1939.
By a Parliamentary ruling of 22nd November 1938, the British Government permitted the entry of around 10,000 “Jewish and non-Aryan children” who received visas for Great Britain, provided their financial support was guaranteed and they did not become a burden on the state. First parents had to register their child with the Youth Welfare Board of the appropriate Jewish congregation, and complete a questionnaire to give detailed information about the family situation and thus measure the degree of risk. No more than one child was permitted to be sent from the same family, and it usually was the eldest, as in the case of Ursula. Each child was allowed one suitcase, one piece of hand luggage and 10 Reichsmarks.
To find out more about Ursula’s story and the Kindertransport you can come to our opening event on Friday 27th January 5:30pm – 7:30pm the event will include talks from three different speakers and a film telling the story of Ursula Michel. On display will be a replica of Ursula’s suitcase and some of the items that she brought with her to England, that are on loan to the Museum until April 2017 when the display will end. The opening of the Kindertransport display at The Peace Museum also coincides with Holocaust Memorial Day. The theme for 2017 is how can life go on? The aim of which is to get people thinking about what happens after genocide and of our own responsibilities in the wake of such a crime. It is a broad open question with no one answer.
The well-known author and survivor of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel has said:
‘For the survivor death is not the problem. Death was an everyday occurrence. We learned to live with Death. The problem is to adjust to life, to living. You must teach us about living.’
The full scope of the theme is listed on the Holocaust Memorial Day website as such:
- Trauma and coming to terms with the past: The theme will ask audiences to consider how individuals and nations who have survived the horrors of genocide can begin to come to terms with the trauma and their past.
- Displacement and refugees: Times of genocide are always times of acute social upheaval; tens of thousands, sometimes millions, of people are forced from or flee their homes. The question of how life can go on is bound up with where it goes on.
- Justice: Some claim there is no such thing as justice after genocide. The theme will encourage thinking about what the concept of justice means and who gets to decide what form it takes.
- Rebuilding communities: Genocide destroys and divides communities. The theme will challenge people to think about how communities can rebuild when whole sections are missing or when survivors and perpetrators live side-by-side
- Reconciliation and forgiveness: Is true reconciliation and forgiveness possible or even desirable? The theme will explore attitudes towards forgiveness.
- Remembering: The theme asks the questions: Why is remembering important to helping life go on? How do we remember when there is nobody left to tell the story?
- Facing hate – denial and trivialisation: Denial is the final stage of genocide. The theme will call on everybody to fight denial and ask the question of how life can go on after the Holocaust and genocide whilst denial and trivialisation exist.
- Facing hate – today: Antisemitism and other forms of hate continue today. The theme will help people to consider individual, organisational, community and governmental responsibilities for protecting the rights of marginalised communities.
- Teach us about living: Everyone will be asked the question: ‘what can you do to help those who have survived genocide, as well as all those from persecuted groups ensure that life goes on?’
Written By Sarah Bartey.