Monday, 12 February 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 in Geneva with Holocaust Survivor Eva Schloss

My late father, Belsen liberator Leonard Berney, found talking about Belsen very painful immediately after the war. My mother tells me it was a totally taboo subject at home.

Luckily for him, and us, about 40 years after the war ended, he started to talk about it. I assume he found the experience cathartic because he talked about it increasingly as the years went by. I remember him first telling me about it, and my realisation that he had played a pivotal role in a very important moment in history, albeit a highly unpleasant and traumatic one for all concerned.

He eventually wrote a book about his experience at Belsen; his account of the camp's liberation, called Liberating Belsen Concentration Camp - A Personal Account. He also started to deliver lectures about his experience and even appeared in two very important Holocaust documentaries in which he was interviewed about liberating the camp: Night Will Fall and No Asylum.

I noticed that, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2018, a screening of No Asylum (which is about Anne Frank's father's struggle and ultimate failure to get his family out of Holland as the war was approaching) was taking place in Geneva. So I contacted the producer of the documentary, Paula Fouce to ask if I could attend, as Geneva is only a one-hour flight away for me. She told me that the screening would be attended by Eva Schloss, Anne Frank's step sister, who herself was an Auschwitz survivor. Paula also told me that the day after the screening, there would be a special Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in the United Nations General Assembly Hall during which Eva would give an account of her experience before, during and after her time in Auschwitz.

It was such an honour for me to be part of the screening and ceremony and to meet Eva, Paula and all concerned.

Here are a few photos of my time in Geneva for Holocaust Memorial Day.

With Paula Fouce, producer of No Asylum
With Her Excellency Aviva Raz Shechter, Permanent Representative of Israel
to the United Nations Office at Geneva
With Eva Schloss and her grandson Eric Schloss
Showing Eva and Eric Schloss dad's book
Liberating Belsen Concentration Camp - A Personal Account
Couldn't help noticing that the carper of the cinema was the same as appears in
Stanley Kubrick's The Shining!

A video message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres
Eva Schloss giving her keynote address
Former laureates of the Menuhin Competition, violinists Dmitry Smirnov and Anne Luisa Kramb
with pianist Gordon Black, Artistic Director of the Menuhin Competition performing
J.S. Bach, Bloch and Bartók
Everybody wanted a piece of Eva!

Joe Stevens, Eva Schloss and Paula Fouce under the
magnificent United Nations emblem
In front of the iconic Allée des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva

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