Leading our next generation of reflection with Holocaust Memorial Day
Students, staff and guests joined together earlier this week to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
On Tuesday (24 January), the University of Northampton marked the day with a stone laying ceremony led by UON Chaplain, Fr Andrew Behrens in the Memorial Garden, as well as hosting an afternoon of talks from academics, students and the wider community.
Speakers included Northampton History student, Ella Phelps and the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Anne-Marie Kilday. Michael Necus, from Northampton Hebrew Congregation, also spoke at the event about his life experiences and perspectives.
This year’s event, which was organised in association with Northamptonshire Rights and Equalities Council, included a talk from UON PhD History student, Bethany McTrustery, who discussed her research into ‘Literatures and the Holocaust’. The event’s keynote speaker, Dr Joshua Cohen, from the University of Leicester, also spoke on his research around ‘British Antifascism and the Holocaust’.
Searchlight Collections Officer at the University of Northampton, Dr Daniel Jones also led a discussion around ‘Sexuality under Nazi Germany’, with a specific focus on the targeted violence and persecution faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
This significantly understudied area of history studies forms an integral part of the University of Northampton’s undergraduate course, where students learn about the systematic violence brought against LGBTQ+ individuals specifically throughout World War Two.
The remembrance event was closed with a powerful interview between two of the University’s History students, Ella Phelps and Ella Baker, and Holocaust survivor, Peter Summerfield.
Arranged in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust, Peter spoke of his experience in escaping the clutches of the Nazis as a five-year-old boy before the Second World War broke out, alongside his mother, father and twin brother.
Ella Phelps, President of UON’s History Society and Holocaust Educational Trust’s Ambassador, said: “I’m very grateful to Peter Summerfield for allowing myself and Ella to speak with him about his personal experiences as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.
“It’s hugely important to take these moments to lend a listening ear and reflect on the Holocaust and what we learnt – and should continue to learn – as we move forwards into the future.
“As a member of the next generation, and as we lose those with first-hand accounts of the Holocaust, I’m incredibly passionate about continuing to use Holocaust Memorial Day as an opportunity to continue reflecting.
“We need to continue thinking about the changes which we, as ‘ordinary people’, can make to play our part in ensuring an atrocity such as this never happens again.”
Dr Paul Jackson, Professor of the History of Radicalism & Extremism, adds: “It was an honour to hear from Holocaust survivor Peter Summerfield here at the University of Northampton.
“Through the discussions between Peter and our students, it was encouraging to see our next generation actively participating in Holocaust Memorial Day. This reinforces the important message of continuing our remembrance to ensure an atrocity of this scale never occurs again – a key message which runs through the veins of every Holocaust Memorial Day.
“By hearing Mr Summerfield’s testimony, we hope that students, staff and guests were able to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the Holocaust and its lessons.”
Research discussions held during this event were partially drawn from The Searchlight Archive, a major collection of material documenting the activities of British and international fascist and racist organisations held at the University of Northampton. It is a unique collection and is one of the most extensive and significant resources of its type in Europe.
Further details about Holocaust Memorial Day can be found on their website.