15-minutes with Lilian Black

Lilian Black, Chair of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association receives concentration camp uniform of Mr Kowalski from Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp (V2 rocket factory), on long term loan from one of the camps in which her father Eugene Black was incarcerated and forced to undertake slave labour between May – November 1944.

Lilian Black, daughter of Eugene Black a Holocaust survivor, lives in Leeds but has strong links to Bradford, having been partially educated at Bingley Grammar school and later in her career working in Bradford. When her father was alive, they often spoke together in Bradford Schools about his experiences. Lilian is also Chair of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association which created the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre located in the University of Huddersfield, which opened in September 2018. Ahead of her address in January on Holocaust Memorial Day, we asked her about what to expect on the day.

Of course this event is the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance and the theme this year is Stand Together. So I will speak about our family’s experience of what happens when we don’t stand together, about the Hungarian deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau, life after liberation and making a new life.

2020 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Why is it important to mark such an anniversary?
The anniversary is important because it marks symbolically the beginning of the liberation of the camps and the awful revelations at first hand of the horrors which left all humanity with the challenge of wondering how such horrors were possible. These crimes against humanity were carried out by ordinary men and women in a terrible coalescing of conditions where genocide became part of a civilised society’s racial ‘rationale’ which allowed millions to be murdered systematically in a German Nazi state sponsored act over years across the whole of occupied Europe.

You are the Chair of the Trustees of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. What sort of things does the Association do?
We first and foremost look after our survivors and their families, helping the membership to live fruitful and meaningful lives, helping them to live with the memory. The liberation of the camps did not liberate families who survived from their memories.

We also preserve their legacy, including thousands of photographs, original documentation of their lives, their persecution and entry into the UK.

We help people to trace their family’s fate through the Arolsen Archives.
We also hold social events and activities, advise on cultural activities relating to the Holocaust and overall deliver education to a wide range of groups and organisations through our Exhibition and Learning Centre. We work hard to promote community cohesion and to alert people to what happens when intolerance takes hold.

You helped set up the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre at Huddersfield University. What exhibitions can you see there?
Inspired by our membership ‘Through Our Eyes’ tells the story of sixteen of our survivors who experienced the Holocaust and settled in Yorkshire.

The exhibition tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of our survivors. It is truly amazing, highly visual, interactive and informative and finishes with an eleven minute immersive film experience capturing the key themes of the Holocaust. Anyone can visit the exhibition.

How important is the centre for the education of people about what happened?
Someone said if we don’t understand our history it repeats itself and this is true. We said never again but it wasn’t true. The centre is the only resource in the North of England about the Holocaust.

Finally, in 2020 there will be lots to mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War. What do you hope people will take away from events looking back to that time?
My hope is for people to understand better the circumstances which led to the Holocaust and to see the relevance for today and how every person can make a difference in their own lives and those of others and to have the courage to stand together.

Join us from 4pm on Sunday 26th January for the Holocaust Memorial Day Evensong with Address, which will be followed by refreshments.

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