Having recently opened its doors to the public, The University of Huddersfield’s Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre proves why understanding the reasons behind the genocide is more crucial than ever.
On 17th September, Lord Eric Pickles, co-chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, cut the ribbon at the official opening of the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre at the University of Huddersfield (UOH). The centre, developed by the UOH alongside the Leeds-based Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA) is one of two centres in the UK and has received over £600,000 of grants from the national Heritage Lottery Fund.
The centre provides a range of learning and research opportunities for schools, students and communities to learn about the Holocaust, exploring the reasons behind the atrocity, and its relevance to modern day political events. The centre has sourced artefacts from concentration camp prisoners, refugees and Kindertransport children which offer an insight into daily life for Jews in Nazi Germany. Items on display include the uniform and eating utensils of a Polish prisoner at Mittelbau-Dora and a yellow star that Jews were obliged to wear in public places.
The mechanics of the Holocaust and the vast network of forced labour and death camps are vivdly illustrated, touchscreens enabling visitors to see and hear the testimonies of survivors and refugees directly impacted. Visitors will also be able to see records of Nazi persecution alongside photographs and films uniquely created for the exhibition which show how events evolved.
An inaugural ceremony located in a specially-adapted space on the UOH campus featured performances of traditional Jewish song and concluded with the prayer for the souls of the departed. Earlier that week, three Holocaust survivors whose stories feature in the exhibition were offered a special preview of the gallery, which features photographs and text panels that tell the story of the rise of Hitler, the roots of Nazi antisemitism and the mounting persecutions of the 1930s that led to the policy of extermination.
While the centre doesn’t shy away from the atrocities of the Holocaust, its curators are keen to celebrate the instances of hope and humanity that arose amid the horror. One exhibit explores the story of the Kindertransport, which saw 10,000 Jewish children rescued from Nazi Germany and offered refuge in the UK. There are also examples of heroic resistance, including the refusal of Albanian Muslims to give up Jews to the Nazis and the efforts of the Danish Resistance Movement in evacuating its Jewish population by sea to the safety of Sweden despite great risk.
Lilian Black, HSFA chair, whose father was sent to Auschwitz Birkenau in 1944 said: “We are not creating this centre for the past, but for the future. The centre will provide a wide range of teaching, learning and research opportunities for schools, students and communities to learn about the Holocaust, explore how it happened and its relevance for today.”