Thursday 26 September 2019

'And Then They Came for Me' in the presence of Eva Schloss at Solihull School

I was honoured to be invited back to Solihull School on Monday 23rd September 2019, the previous time being last January for the screening of No Asylum - the Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story in the presence of Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank's stepsister, Eva Schloss. This time it was for a performance of And Then They Came For Me by James Still (Moondog Productions), also in the presence of Eva Schloss.

The play is, essentially, a very real and graphic multi-media representation of Eva's entire Holocaust experience. It brings it home to you much more effectively than reading about it or even watching it on film. And Then They Came For Me seems to be permanently on tour, so go and watch it - it's a must-see! For me, it was an unforgettable experience which, I feel, should be part of every school's Holocaust education curriculum.

Back row:
David Lloyd Headmaster: John Wood, son of Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Berney, Bergen Belsen liberator; The Right Honourable The Lord Glasman, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research UK
Front row:
Mark Penney Head of the Junior School; Diana Crabtree; Eva Schloss MBE; Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE

Headmaster of Solihull School, David Lloyd, addressing the audience before the start of the play, 
with Eva Schloss and many other dignitaries in the front row. 

Patrick Withey as a Hitler Youth

Nazi officials (Patrick Withey and Benjamin Hardy-Phillips) arresting Eva (Gemma Reynolds) 

A testimony by Eva plays on the big screen while Patrick, Benjamin and Gemma recreate Eva's interrogation 

The Hitler Youth telling us how he was ordered to strangle his puppy, 
otherwise he'd never be a real German 
The cast on stage with Eva
After the play, Eva answered questions from Mark Penney, Head of the Junior School 
(organiser of the event) and from the audience

Eva with the cast after the show (left to right: Eva Schloss, Patrick Withey, Savannah Betts, 
Benjamin Hardy-Phillips, Gemma Reynolds)

Sunday 22 September 2019

An Evening Celebrating the Life of Gena Turgel, MBE

I was so pleased to be invited to this very special event, hosted by Holocaust Educational Trust in honour of Holocaust survivor, Gena Turgel, who sadly passed away last year.

My connection with her was via my late father, Belsen liberator, Leonard Berney. Gena was one of the thousands of prisoners at Bergen Belsen, and after liberation, my father was the Commander of the Belsen Camp for Displaced Persons. Another member of the liberating forces was Norman Turgel. He met Gena at Belsen and pretty much, there and then, decided he was going to marry her.

He wanted to hold an engagement party at the Displaced Persons camp, but in order to do that, he had to ask permission from my father.  Luckily, Dad said yes! This story, which includes a photo of myself with Gena, appeared in the Daily Mail in 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Norman Turgel in Hyde Park in 1985 at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen. Norman told me he remembered my father from their time together at Belsen in 1945.

The evening, in the presence of many of Gena's family, celebrating her took place at the Arts Depot in North Finchley, London on 12th September 2019. It was a very moving, educational and inspirational, musical evening. Before the show, Gena's wedding dress, famously made out of an army parachute (now preserved at the Imperial War Museum), was on display. Here is a selection of my photos from the event:

Gena's wedding dress made from a parachute

Gena's grandson, Chazan Jonny Turgel, accompanied by Kramer Camerata

Karen Pollock MBE (Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust)

Natasha Kaplinksy OBE

Bob Blackman MP, Tracy Ann Oberman (who also spoke at the event), me
and behind me, the Rt Hon Ed Balls