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Holocaust Memorial Day marked by premiere of play by Jewish prisoners

Posted on 1 February 2013

The first UK performance of scenes from a play written by Jewish prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp formed the centrepiece of the University of York’s commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Smoke of Home was one of many plays written by Jewish prisoners at the Theresienstadt concentration camp and was performed as part of a fully-booked public event at the University’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television.

The performance was directed by Theatre, Film and Television student Joe Lichtenstein, whose own grandfather escaped to Britain on a Kindertransport, and drew on research by Dr Lisa Peschel, a playwright and lecturer at the Department.

Dr Peschel said: “Theresienstadt was a site of great suffering and deprivation, but it was also a site of enormous artistic energy. Although most of the artists perished in Auschwitz and other camps, we are fortunate that many of their works, including drawings, musical compositions and plays, have been preserved. In the script The Smoke of Home the young authors tried to see beyond the end of the war, and they had the courage to ask the question: ‘What if everything we know will be radically changed?’”

To this day, the Holocaust stands as a symbol of the depths of man’s inhumanity to man and as a universal example of the evil of genocide

Dr Jane Grenville

The Holocaust Memorial Day event also included the testimony of Holocaust refugee and York resident Marc Schatzberger, and a panel discussion with international human rights defenders based at the University’s Centre for Applied Human Rights.

Marc Schatzberger’s daughter, Lesley Schatzberger, an instrumental tutor at the University’s Department of Music, led klezmer music by York band Ofyn Oyg. The event concluded with a candle-lighting ceremony to remember the victims of all genocides and crimes against humanity.

The event was hosted by University of York Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Jane Grenville, whose father escaped from Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport.

Dr Grenville said: “To this day, the Holocaust stands as a symbol of the depths of man’s inhumanity to man and as a universal example of the evil of genocide. It holds lessons for all of us, regardless of our religion, our race or background.

“At the University of York, we are proud of the inclusivity of our student and staff community and are committed to nurturing projects that create a fairer and more just society. These include the Centre for Applied Human Rights and the important international work of the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit. However, we can always do more and the aim of the event was to motivate all of us to reflect on the lessons that we can learn from the Holocaust and to make a personal commitment to challenge all forms of discrimination.

“We were particularly pleased to welcome a large number of young people to the event as it is important to keep passing the message on to future generations.”

 A full performance of The Smoke of Home will be staged during the York Festival of Ideas in June.

Notes to editors:

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