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Exhibition and talks tell Holocaust survivors' moving stories

Published January 28, 2020 1.08pm

Two Holocaust survivors marked Holocaust Memorial Day by sharing touching accounts of their escape from persecution.

Gabriele Keenaghan

Gabriele Keenaghan is introduced to Cllr Angela Surtees

County Durham hosted three free events, organised by the council in partnership with Durham Cathedral and the Holocaust Educational Trust, as part of Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place across the world every year on 27 January and is a date to remember the millions of people who were murdered and persecuted during the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

This year Holocaust Memorial Day marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.

Honouring victims

Between Monday 20 and Friday 31 January, Peterlee's East Durham College is hosting a free exhibition to honour the victims of genocide. The display features photographic images as well as archives from the Durham Light Infantry collection. Artwork from school, community and faith groups are also on display. Visitors also have a chance to learn more about the Porrajmos, which translates to 'the Devouring', the term used to describe the Nazi genocide of Europe's Roma and Sinti population.

The exhibition is open from 8.30am to 5pm on Monday, from 8.30 to 9pm Tuesday to Thursday and from 8.30 to 4.30pm on Friday.

Sharing stories

The college also hosted a poignant talk on Monday 27 January, when Gabriele Keenaghan described how her grandmother secured her a place on a Kindertransport train from Austria to the UK in 1939.

Gabriele, was recently awarded the British Empire Medal by the Queen for her services to Holocaust education and awareness, and was joined by pupils from East Durham College and The Academy at Shotton Hall who sang and performed poetry.

First-hand account

Also on 27 January 2020, Durham Cathedral hosted an educational event for secondary school pupils from across the county.

Hungarian-born Tomi Komoly spoke at the event, giving a first-hand account of his experiences during World War II. Tomi talked about how his family was torn apart when his father was called up to the forced labour unit of the Hungarian Army.

Tomi also shared stories about his time in a walled ghetto, his escape with his mother in 1944 and liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945.

A chance to reflect

Cllr Angela Surtees, our Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: "Holocaust Memorial Day provides us with an opportunity to honour the survivors of genocide and to remember the victims of these tragic episodes.

"It was an honour to be able to listen to Gabriele and Tomi sharing their testimonies. Events like these offer a chance to reflect on what can happen as a result of discrimination and are massively important in educating people about the real-life effects of prejudice.

"By promoting tolerance and equality we aim to eradicate hate crime and to create a cohesive and inclusive community across County Durham."

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