Our presentations reflect a wide variety of personal experiences of the Holocaust across nazi-occupied Europe and can be adapted to any audience. To see a summary click on one below or just scroll down to browse.
Alice Svarin 1921-2013
Presented by Vera Bernstein
Vera’s mother, Alice Svarin, was born in a market town in central Slovakia, under the Lower Tatras mountains. After a peaceful 18 years in a traditionally Jewish family she married a local admirer in the spring of 1941. The marriage unwittingly saved her from being deported to Auschwitz with the 1000 single women from Slovakia. Her father was deported and murdered at the beginning of the war, her sister managed to live under a false name until Autumn 1944 when she was also murdered in Auschwitz. Alice’s mother survived the war in Budapest under a false identity.
Having being spared the initial deportation Alice and her husband survived in their home under the Nuremberg Laws in the Nazi occupied fascist Slovak state until August 1944 – March 1945 when the German army entered Slovakia. The few remaining Jews went into hiding in the mountains. This period – August 1944 – March 1945 – forms the main part of Alice’s testimony that she recorded for Stephen Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.
After the war the family lived under Soviet style socialism. When the Russian army occupied Czechoslovakia in 1968 the parents encouraged their two daughters to leave for the West. Alice joined them in London in 1975 after the untimely death of her husband. She settled in London and learned a new language and a new way of life at the age of 54.
Vera’s presentation follows Alice’s testimony in describing the fate of some family members and how without the help of some of the local population risking their own lives none of them would have survived. Vera stresses the role of luck in trusting people who can be at times both perpetrators and rescuers. The presentation includes photographs, maps and video clips of Alice telling the stories joined by a narrative by Vera. Alice eventually settled in London and learned a new language and a new way of life at the age of 54.
This is ultimately an optimistic story of a courageous no nonsense woman who was able to adapt to changing circumstances. Although it deals with the lives of Jews under Nazi occupation it does not contain descriptions of the horrors of concentration camps. It is therefore suitable for delivery to young people of thirteen years and upwards.
We all agreed that Vera’s PowerPoint presentation was excellent, beautifully put together, with the photos, the sound recordings and the subtitles which all enhanced her talk. Vera delivered her talk very well. It was very well structured and followed through.
Emmy Golding 1914-2010
Presented by Helen Stone
Helen Stone’s mother, Emmy Golding, née Kaufmann, was born in a small village near Cologne in Germany just as World War I was beginning. The twelve Jewish families in her village, who had lived there for many generations, were well integrated and yet maintained their religious identity. The insidious rise of the Nazis from 1933 onwards forced Emmy, her parents and her sister to flee Germany in search of a safe haven.
Emmy has amazing recall and describes her experiences vividly and powerfully on a video recording made by the Spielberg Foundation in 1996. She talks about growing up, school and the local community as well as about her dangerous but successful attempt to smuggle money out of Germany and her confrontation with an SS official in a desperate bid to have her father released from Dachau Concentration Camp.
She escaped to Britain on a domestic service visa in May 1939 and succeeded in rescuing her parents, who arrived in London just three days before the start of war in September 1939. She married, had children and eventually made a fulfilling life for herself and her family in England.
Helen’s presentation intersperses Emmy’s own testimony with personal memories of her mother. The Spielberg video, family photos and artefacts are combined with brief footage of the rise of the Nazis, thus setting the story against its historical background.
Although this presentation deals with the Holocaust, it does not give details of concentration camp life and ultimately has a positive and uplifting message to convey. It is therefore considered suitable for young people of thirteen years and upwards.
This was a great experience. Your mother’s story really inspired me to always stand up for everything and be confident.
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Eva Cato 1926-2008
Presented by Vivienne Cato
Eva Cato née Rotenstein was born in Czechoslovakia 13 years before the outbreak of World War II. An only child growing up in a small town in Slovakia with her mother and grandparents, she witnessed the encroachment of anti-Semitic hostilities and regulations on the life of her small Jewish community.
Having discovered that her aunt had been transported to Auschwitz, she and her mother decided to escape and made their way illegally to Budapest in Hungary, where they were to remain until the end of the War. Living under false identities, they moved from place to place within Budapest as their situation became increasingly precarious. They survived the Siege of Budapest by sheltering in a basement for weeks with almost no food. By the time the Russians liberated the city in January 1945, they were two of only 15,000 Slovak Jews (out of a pre-War population of 90,000) who had survived the War.
Post-war she returned briefly to Slovakia to pursue medical studies but was forced to leave by the Communists who took over in 1948. She and her mother immigrated to Britain, where she married and had a child, but she was unable to resume her medical career and had to relinquish her dream of being a doctor. She died in 2008 at the age of 81.
The presentation by Eva’s daughter, Vivienne, takes us through the key points of this story, using footage of Eva recorded in 1992 by the British Library with Yale University as part of their Holocaust testimony project.
I feel as If I have learned a lot today. I am inspired by the sentiment of ‘stand together’ and I found your story very interesting. Thank you for sharing your story and I am thankful for this learning experience.
Eva Urbach 1922-2010
Ulli Adler 1925-2004
Presented by Lesley Urbach
Lesley Urbach’s maternal family came from a small town in North-East Germany which now belongs to Poland. Her mother, neé Eva Wohl, and three aunts escaped to Britain and Argentina in 1938 and 1939. Their parents were murdered at Auschwitz on 19 February 1943.
Lesley’s presentation uses film and radio testimony provided by her mother and youngest aunt, neé Ursula Wohl (known as Ulli), family photos and brief excerpts from historical films. These are interspersed with Lesley talking about the family’s life before and after the Nazis came to power in early 1933; explaining why and how her 16-year-old mother and 13-year-old aunt Ulli came to Britain on the Kindertransport in December 1938; and focusing on what happened to their parents left behind in Germany using letters and poems sent by her grandparents to England and Argentina before and during the World War II.
Lesley refers to the other groups of people murdered during the Holocaust and a link is made to the ongoing persecution of people because of, for example, their ethnicity, religion, colour, gender, sexuality or disability and the audience is encouraged to do something when they see injustice. Lesley amends the focus of the talk depending on the age of the audience and the requirements of the booking organisation so it is suitable for older primary and secondary schools.
Thank you so much for stepping in at the last minute and delivering a top quality talk. The PowerPoint was the best I have ever seen, using historical photographs interspersed with personal testimony and highlighting how the Nazi regime impacted on normal families. It is an approach that fits well with the pedagogy I have developed for our Holocaust programmes, looking at how Nazi policies affected individuals and families and widening it out to local, national and international for context.
You interacted so well with the children, acknowledging their answers, and praising their efforts. You created a safe learning space and every child felt secure to participate and offer their thoughts and answers. This is quite a skill.
Naomi Blake 1924-2018
Presented by Anita Peleg
Naomi Blake, née Zissi Dum, was born in 1924 in Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia to a large Jewish family within a thriving Jewish population. This all changed under the German-backed Hungarian regime and by 1944 the Jews had all fled or been deported.
In April 1944 Naomi and her family were transported in the notorious cattle trains to Auschwitz concentration camp where many of her family members were selected for the gas chambers. She and her sister were chosen to work and sent to Brahnau concentration camp. There while working in a munitions factory, they learned how to sabotage the bombs that they were tasked to build. In a bid to flee the Russian armies, their Nazi captors forced the prisoners to march but Naomi managed to escape and finally make the long journey home. She returned to Mukacevo in July 1945 to find that her home was in ruins and 17 family members, including 10 young nieces and nephews had been murdered.
Her journey then took her to Palestine where she rebuilt her life and then finally to London where after attending the Hornsey School of Art, her career as a sculptor flourished. Today, her work promotes understanding between faiths and stands in many places of worship and public spaces such as Norwich Cathedral, St James Church, Muswell Hill, All Saints Church, East Finchley, New North London Synagogue, Leeds Synagogue, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Fitzroy Square.
Her story is told by her daughter Anita Peleg using audio testimony of Naomi, historical photos and photos of Naomi’s sculpture that demonstrate the strength of the human spirit to survive against the odds and provide a positive legacy for the future.
A very remarkable and personal talk . Her mother’s experiences and personality came over so clearly. Opened up to larger issues and which are appropriate to today.
Thank you! Touched the human spirit.