Remembering the Holocaust

Victims and survivors were remembered at a special ceremony in Bradford’s City Hall on 27 January, 2017.

Guest blogger, Nigel Grizzard, Researcher, and Bradford Jewish Historian writes about how his family and community continue to be affected by the Holocaust.

It is 72 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp on January 27th, 1945 by the Allied Forces and it is right that we remember those horrendous events of the Nazi era from 1933-1945.

The theme for this year is ‘How can life go on?’ proposed by the Holocaust Survivor and profound thinker the late Elie Wiesel, after the Holocaust and I want to tell you my thoughts.

The further away we get from the Holocaust, I as a Jew, wonder whether we are getting closer to it, more and more information comes out the Holocaust, and the past which has been closed off now becomes more open as documents are found and research has been done.

I was born in 1952. The generation of Jews after the Holocaust and I had a comfortable childhood in London, but as I’ve grown older I’ve had the chance to research and it has left a profound effect on me. In 1976 I moved North to work for Bradford Council.
My family who bear the name Grizzard came to London in the 1840s and 1850s from Amsterdam in Holland. On my father’s side we were British Jews of Dutch ancestry – but from many years ago.

In 2004 I went to Amsterdam and there was a Yizkor Book – A Hebrew word meaning Remembrance, a Memorial Book to the Jews who were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Of the 130,000 Jews in Holland 110,000 were murdered and in the Yizkor book I found 40 Grizzards, all somehow related to me, cousins, second cousins, babies, children, adults all who were part of my extended family.

To put it mildly I was shocked to the core, that here was I a British Jew with a link directly to the Holocaust, though my family had been in Britain for 150 years.

To remember them, my sister and I gave forty prayer books to our synagogue in North Leeds, so their names should not be forgotten, but remembered for the future.
On my mother’s side, her father had come from Lithuania to Sheffield in 1911, he came to join family, but left behind, brothers, a sister and parents.

My grandfather used to talk to my cousins and me about growing up in the village, but never about his family and we never thought we would ever be able to visit.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the freeing up of travel, Lithuania became an independent country. My cousin and I travelled to Lithuania. We found the village Zemel, where our grandfather came from and then were taken by a young man to a sight where the hundred plus Jews of the village had been shot in a mass slaughter in 1942. Here in this spot lay my great uncles, a great aunt and my great grandparents – a truly shocking experience.

Whenever we hear the mention of the village of Zemel we remember the relatives who were murdered.

My wife Paula was born in Leeds, her mother was from London and her father was a Polish Jew from Warsaw in Poland. He had arrived in Britain with the Polish Army and had been stationed in Scotland. As the war ended he came to Leeds and met my mother in law.
What he never told his daughter was that he had been married with a child in Warsaw and although he survived in the Polish Army, his wife and son had died either in the Warsaw Ghetto or in the Treblinka Death Camp. He called himself Gustav in England but his real name was Gedalia, a Hebrew name. We learnt many years later his first wife was called Gustava and he kept the male version of her name to perpetuate her memory.

Gustav died many years ago, but we perpetuate his memory by calling our daughter Dahlia, after her grandfather who had escaped from Nazi occupied Europe to survival in Britain.

I have met many Holocaust survivors, who now with the passage of time have departed this life. They have told me their stories and they have told me of the new lives they built after finding freedom and refuge in Britain.

My daughter is married to Lloyd Stroud. Lloyd’s great grandfather Ossie Stroud was a well-known member of the Bradford Jewish community. In the late 1930s after the horrors of Kristalnacht, when the Nazis unleashed a full scale pogrom against the Jews of Germany and Austria, Ossie went into action.

He brought together both Jews and non-Jews in Bradford to raise money to run a hostel for 25 boys from the Kindertransport – the Jewish Children’s transports – in Bradford. There is an exhibition of their story on at the Peace Museum in the City and in 1989, 50 years after their arrival I was privileged to meet them at a reunion in Bradford.

They had made new lives, some had joined the British Armed Forces in World War 2 to fight the Nazis. They had become citizens of Britain, some went to Israel and when they came together they remembered their past.

Bradford for them was a city of refuge and one made who made it his home here was Lutz Zeisler. Lutz was a bright boy, an excellent chess player, who came from Berlin to Bradford, the one great journey he made in his life.

Lutz worked as shoe repairer, he worked as a weaver in a mill and his final job, near his home in Manningham was as the Lollipop Crossing Patrol Man at Drummond Middle School in Manningham.

Lutz was regular and whenever I was in Manningham in the early afternoon, I would seek him out to say hello as he prepared to shepherd the children across the road. Lutz spent his last years in the Jewish Old Age home in Leeds and as I knew him I spoke at his funeral.
In most synagogues in Britain there are memorials to the Six Million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Here in Bradford, in the synagogue in Bowland Street and at the prayer Hall in the Jewish cemetery at Scholemoor, there are plaques listing the names of the direct family from Bradford Jews who never made it out of Germany, Austria or Nazi occupied Europe during the war.

The Holocaust had a great closeness to the Jews of Bradford. Those who found refuge in this city made new lives, made careers and contributed. They became industrialists, academics, doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs and parents creating new families, new jobs and helping the business, cultural and social life of the City of Bradford.

In the Jewish cemetery in Bradford lies the grave of Mira Kagan who died in 1965. On it is written, one of the few Jews who survived the Holocaust in the Kovno, Lithuania. On the tomb of Abram Aronovsky who died in the year 2000 are inscribed the names of eight members of his family murdered in Kovno, Lithuania. These are people who lived and walked the streets of their new and adopted home of the City of Bradford.

So what is our duty today?

Our duty is to remember, our duty is to fight intolerance and hate, our duty is to stand up and speak out.

Those who survived the Holocaust year on year, are getting fewer, but the courage they exhibited and the lives they built are a testament to Jewish survival.

That is why I am here today, one who comes from the generation after the Holocaust, but who knows his duty is to speak in their memory. We must never forget, we must use the Hebrew word, Zachor to remember them.

Those who survived were builders. After tragedy they built and they renewed their lives in Bradford, in Britain, in Israel, in America exemplified by the Lubavitcher Rebbe and all over the world where survivors made new lives.

They renewed Jewish life and they showed out of the ashes of the flames of the Holocaust, there was a renewed Jewish spirit.

Read more about  Holocaust Memorial Day.

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