On Monday February 18th, Holocaust survivor Ruth Barnett visited Beverley Grammar School to give a talk about her experiences to Year 9 and some sixth form history students. She managed to escape Nazi Germany in 1938 by way of the British organised Kindertransport whereby the British government allowed 10,000 Jewish children into the country from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Although this can be seen as a very humanitarian response after the November 1938 Krystallnacht pogrom which left up to 100 people dead and hundreds of synagogues and Jewish owned properties destroyed it does raise troubling questions. The plan was very much the result of pressure from private individuals and the British and American governments had made it very difficult for Jewish refugees to flee Germany. Indeed the 1938 Evian conference on this issue ended its deliberations by stating that the countries involved had no wish to make any comment on the German governments policies regarding Jewish people. Krystallnacht followed soon after. Ruth spoke very eloquently about her divided feelings and frustration and of her brother’s distress about being bombed by his mother, who had to stay behind and was not Jewish. She also told the story of her Jewish father who escaped by way of Shanghai in China. Below is an extract from her testimony.
To support Ruth’s visit further an educator specialising in Art from the Holocaust Educational Trust held two workshops with some boys in Year 9 with Miss Parker. Caroline Slifkin introduced the students to examples of Holocaust survivor art and with them discussed the issues and emotions that were being expressed and the methods and techniques by which this was communicated. The students then chose from the skills and approaches they have been developing with Miss Parker and Mr Branton in their Art lessons to produce their own work on this difficult and troubling theme. This was an excellent example of how the subject had prepared them for the task of meeting the demands of a brief which had been given them and as such showed how the approach of the Art department where students spend a significant amount of time planning and explaining their decisions is preparing the boys for the 21st century workplace. Furthermore as an educational experience it gave them an invaluable opportunity to use the knowledge from their history lessons to reflect on deeper layers of meaning. Furthermore the subject of the Holocaust and the art it produced is a powerful stimulus to worthwhile thought on the meaning of humanity and modern civilisation. Below you can look at some of the boys’ work.