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Holocaust survivor’s message of vigilance to younger generations

Gena Turgel MBE tells how she survived the concentration camps

Gena Turgel MBE tells how she survived the concentration camps

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Islington schoolchildren received a powerful lesson for life as they heard moving first-hand testimony from Holocaust survivor, Gena Turgel MBE.
 
Ms Turgel, 93, was speaking at a special event, organised by Islington Council, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day 2017.
 
Local pupils from across the borough sat riveted as she spoke of living in Nazi-occupied Kraków, Poland. She was 16 when German forces began bombing her home city.
 
Speaking at the Islington Assembly Hall event, which centred on the question ‘How can life go on?’, Ms Turgel said: “Many times I tell myself I managed to stay alive so I can tell you [the children] what happened.”
 
She recounted how she and her family, some of whom were murdered, were forcibly moved from their home – first to a Jewish ghetto, then to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Bergen-Belsen, where she survived before it was liberated by Allied tanks in 1945. 
 
For an hour she spoke, to an otherwise silent room, of the horrors she witnessed as a young girl in the concentration camps and warned the pupils listening to be bold and vigilant in ensuring such atrocities never happen again. 
 
“I only wish that you and your children and the generations to come should never, never allow it to happen again… It’s up to you and your generation.”
 
Reflecting on the story she had just heard, Thelma, 15, said: “It was very moving – amazing. I’ve never heard anything like it.”
 
The students – joined by local residents, councillors, and community representatives – also heard from Muzna Al-Naib about the crisis in Syria, as well as Islington Council’s executive member for community development Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwarz whose Grandfather was himself a Holocaust survivor.
 
Cllr Comer-Schwarz said: “As someone whose family was profoundly shaped by the Holocaust, this day has special significance for me. My grandfather survived Dachau concentration camp and came to the UK as a refugee. I’ve always been aware my existence was predicated on people being brave and helping others. 
 
The event, which brought together three generations, also included a musical performance from Highbury Fields School pupils.
 
Cllr Comer-Schwarz continued: “The children who attended today are too young to remember atrocities like the Holocaust, Rwanda, and Bosnia. So it’s especially important we never forget these tragedies; that we teach them never to repeat the mistakes of the past and to treat everyone equally and with compassion.
 
“We must never be silent when confronted with racism and hatred; we must stamp it out, wherever we find it.”

For more information contact:

Eugene Grant
Senior Media Officer
0207 527 2530
eugene.grant@islington.gov.uk

Notes to editors

For more information about Gena Turgel MBE and her family, please see: http://www.het.org.uk/survivors-gena-turgel.

Cllr Comer-Schwarz recounts the story of her Grandfather who survived the Holocaust.jpg

Cllr Comer-Schwarz recounts the story of her Grandfather who survived the Holocaust

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Local schoolchildren discuss how they can combat hate and prejudice.jpg

Local schoolchildren discuss how they can combat hate and prejudice

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