A Holocaust survivor visited Preston to speak out against hatred and prejudice, as the city paused to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.Advertisement
Mrs Thea Hurst described her memories of her escape to England and her father’s death in a concentration camp. The talk at the Harris Library was part of a series of events held to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
Mrs Hurst, who now lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, kept a diary of her experiences which is used in German schools. She said: “I go to Germany a lot to speak at schools and the question I’m always asked by young people is ‘don’t you hate us?’ I say ‘Hitler hated.’”
“I don’t hate,” she added. “You get much further with love and understanding. If you have prejudice against people that is the beginning of evil deeds.”
Mrs Hurst was brought up in Leipzig, Germany, but was forced to flee with her family in 1938 after her parents’ fur coat shop was ransacked on the Night of the Broken Glass.
She described seeing the shop’s mannequins piled up in the street: “Looking back, I think that was the first time I saw the victims of the holocaust.”
The family moved to Warsaw, Poland, and Thea escaped to England with her brother and mother soon after. They intended to return once her father had obtained a visa to emigrate to the United States.
The outbreak of World War II prevented their return to Poland. “We never ever saw my father again,” said Mrs Hurst.
After her mother’s death in 1964, Mrs Hurst discovered a letter from a woman who had met her father in the Warsaw ghetto. It described how he had been taken by the Nazis to Treblinka concentration camp.
“My mother received the letter in 1945 but she didn’t want to burden us children so she never showed us,” said Mrs Hurst.
Mr Neil Biscomb of Bilsborough, who was visiting the Harris with his family, said: “I can’t understand why people want to persecute each other, I really can’t.”
He added that memorial events were important to ensure that people remain aware of the Holocaust: “Young kids don’t know what has gone on.”
The Harris Library also displayed paintings by Palestinian children and hosted an exhibition by the Anne Frank Trust.
In a statement, Preston’s Mayor Cllr Albert Richardson said: “National Holocaust Day is an important time to reflect on the true horrors of the Holocaust, and remember the people that suffered so horrendously from the persecution.”
Cllr Richardson was among the congregation at a special service of remembrance held at the Minster of St John, Church Street, on Thursday.