Hillingdon Libraries commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 with a lecture by Professor Dan Stone from his book The Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. The talk, which was attended by over 70 people including Hillingdon residents, out of borough visitors and the Mayor of Hillingdon Councillor George Cooper and the Mayoress Councillor Judith Cooper, challenged many of the misconceptions that had arisen about the liberation of the camps.
Professor Stone explained that while it had been over 70 years since the end of the war and despite increasingly rich sources, there were still many misconceptions about the liberation due in part to the political motivations of the Cold War. One such example was that many of the survivors were not victims marked for murder but slave labour, a direct result of Germany’s struggles towards the end of the war. Although, he stressed, for many of the survivors there was very little difference.
Professor Stone challenged the notion that the liberation was a specific moment in time. It was instead, he argued, the beginning of a long process of rehabilitation and recovery. It was not a celebration of an end of suffering but rather the beginning of yet more troubles as the survivors not only had to recuperate physically and mentally but also had to face, as one Jewish rabbi termed it, “isolation[,] loneliness [and the absence of] ambition.” Indeed for many of the liberated their immediate concern was getting help. They were dying, their homes had been stolen and loved ones murdered. This caused some problems for the Allied countries who struggled to fully comprehend the long term problems that the Jewish survivors were suffering.
He also pointed out that the title of his talk was something of a misnomer in itself, many of the liberated Jews were not in fact liberated from camps. 70,000 Jews came out of hiding, a further 350,000 were displaced people including Polish Jews in exile.
A question and answer session followed the lecture. Professor Stone answered questions about his decision to stress that displaced people were not from the concentration camps, explaining that this was important to show the historical reality of the event. He further explained that he had reservations about the way the Holocaust was taught at school, arguing that he did not believe that it should be used as an example for ethical or moral debates and that it should be taught more as a historical event.
Many books on both the Holocaust and World War II can be found in Hillingdon Libraries including Dan Stone’s Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. It can also be purchased from all good book shops. A further book, Concentration Camps: A Very Short Introduction, is expected to be published later this year.
Future events at Uxbridge library include the bi-monthly Open Mic night on Friday 5th February 2016 and a now fully booked author talk with Helen Dunmore on Saturday 6th February 2016.
By Mark Ulrich – Uxbridge Library