This year being the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz the CDC organised two events: the first at the John Abel Smith Chapel in the morning as reported last week and the second which I am here reporting at the University Chapel in the evening from1730. About 100 people were present including the mayor and mayoress Cllr and Mrs Hughes; the chairman, leader and CEO of Chichester District Council.
It began with an introduction from Professor Hugo Frey head of the Department of History & Politics on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor. Then Carmen Casal-Lopez the granddaughter of the locally based world renowned playwright Sir Ronald Harwood recounted her experiences of her recent visit to the extermination camp. Angela Smith from Bishop Luffa school spoke of her ambassadorial role accompanying school children to the camps. This was followed by the University’s Chamber Orchestra performance of music from Schindlers list.
Some readings by Professor Frey from the graphic novel Maus and from the Director Louis Malle’s film “au revoir les enfants “ were read. These preceded the performance of scenes from Welcome to Terezin acted by members of the Yvonne Arnaud Youth theatre. The performance was introduced by the playwright Philip Glassborow
A monologue from the play was read by a member of the Chichester Youth Theatre Ellie Bulpett. Then Danielle Lockwood Associate Lecturer who lost cousins in the Holocaust gave readings from the work of Primo Levi himself a survivor. More music followed this time by Ernest Bloch’s “Prayer from Jewish Life” once again performed by the University Chamber Orchestra.
Then Councillor Clare Apel gave a most moving recollection of her father who escaped to England and whose cousin was one of Nicolas Winton’s children but who was overwhelmed by surviving when so many of his family died, She described how after her father died she found letters and papers giving the names of all the many relatives who had died. On a list she had got from the Jewish committee for Theresienstadt there was the name of her father’s Aunt Hannah who was put on transport number 7-992 which was a cattle truck and sent to the death camp of Auschwitz where she was gassed. This Aunt had been like a surrogate mother for her father. Aunt Hannah looked on him as a son. Many of those present who had known Mrs Apel well for many years were shocked for she had never spoken publicly about this before.
Sarah Badel read the famous poem by Auden refugee blues pointing out how no-one would be let in; Canada notoriously when asked how many Jews it could take replied one would be too many.
In conclusion Ralph Apel recounted how rabbis in Auschwitz put God on trial. God’s advocate said that he had to give the Germans and their henchmen the opportunity of acting humanely and when they failed God had given the allies the means to destroy the camps i.e. Bomber Command and the USAAF – the Allies failed to do so. The rabbis concluded that all we could do was to remember, to seek justice and to say Kaddish which Mr Apel then read. The evening then concluded.