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In 2001, Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) was designated as an international day of commemoration: a day to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust,alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.*
In response to the newly launched Holocaust Memorial Day, two synagogues in Northwood, north-west London, joined together to create educational Events for local secondary school students. Known as Northwood Holocaust Memorial Day Events, our aim was to enable students to hear first-hand the testimonies of those who had survived the Holocaust, and from this to gain an understanding of the need to resist all forms of racism, discrimination and bullying in order to build a better, safer future for us all.
From a handful of local schools attending, Northwood Holocaust Memorial Day Events grew steadily over the ensuing 19 years. By Holocaust Memorial Day 2020, we were a fully-fledged charity, Holocaust Learning UK, and now comprised 9 synagogues who were hosting our Events for over 50 schools. At these Events, students were welcomed by a rabbi, they participated in bespoke small group workshops that explained and contextualised the Holocaust, and most significantly, they listened to and witnessed first-hand the testimony of a Holocaust survivor. The Events closed with a simple candle-lighting memorial ceremony. Over 35,000 students participated in these Events over the 19 years from 2001 to 2020.
The Coronavirus Pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, it was apparent to us that we could not hold our live Events. We looked for ways to continue to bring an understanding of the Holocaust to young people, mindful of the fact that in times of trouble, the fight against discrimination and intolerance is ever more important.
In response to this, our Docufilm Out of the Darkness was created.
With the expertise of Tapestry Films, we managed to film Out of the Darkness by ducking and diving around lockdowns at Broadley Studios in Marylebone and at the Ark Synagogue in Northwood. Jason Isaacs very kindly recorded the narration from his home.
Out of the Darkness includes the compelling testimony of a Holocaust Survivor and features a diverse cast of participating students and a rabbi. It teaches students about the Holocaust by contextualising the Survivor testimony, identifying suffering where the victims are selected on the basis of being ‘different’ or ‘other’ and it also references subsequent genocides.
As with Holocaust Learning UK’s live Events, Out of the Darkness is fundamentally about encouraging students to learn the lessons from the past to help build a better, safer future for everyone.
As was the case for our live Events, Out of the Darkness and the supporting resources for teachers are provided free to all schools.
A NEW DIRECTION WAS BORN
As the trailer for Out of the Darkness was released, the excitement began. Schools began to register: first our local schools, but then schools from further afield. From Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England and beyond the UK, schools began to sign up students to view Out of the Darkness. By the time our Screening Window for 2021 was closing, schools up and down the UK had registered close to 60,000 students to view the film.
And as students and their teachers began to view Out of the Darkness, the accolades and acclaim poured in. Take a look at our Testimonials’ page to see what others say about Out of the Darkness.
Out of the Darkness has enabled Holocaust Learning UK to bring the unique experience of listening to and learning from a Holocaust survivor to tens of thousands of secondary school students throughout the UK and beyond. Whilst we may one day be able to host live Events again, we are extending and developing our free digital materials and supporting teachers’ resources, bringing Holocaust survivor testimony and an understanding of the Holocaust to secondary school students wherever they may live.
Through our digital offerings, as through our live Events, Holocaust Learning UK’s pledge continues to be to provide unique opportunities for secondary school students to understand the impact of the Holocaust, to hear the testimonies of survivors and to link this history with issues of racism, bullying and discrimination that still resonate today.
In this way, our aim is that by learning the lessons of the Holocaust, we will build a better, safer future for us all.
- For an understanding of the international effort to create a memorial day to the Holocaust via the Stockholm Convention of 2000, and the subsequent Statement of Commitment, click here.