The Power of Words
One of the most important parts of Islington’s annual commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day is the testimony from a Holocaust survivor. This year we will be hearing the story of Ernest Simon who fled Austria in 1939 on the Kindertransport. Ernest was just eight years old when he was put on a train in Vienna bound for England.
By 1939 conditions for Jewish people in Austria had become unbearable. They were not allowed to work, or go to school, and it became unsafe to go outside. Ernest remembers his parents saying goodbye and trying to reassure him with the words ‘we’ll be right behind you’. Luckily they were right and the family was reunited two months later in Leeds. However, it was another two years before they were all able to live together again.
In early 1940 his father was labelled as an ‘enemy alien’ and interned on the Isle of Mann for more than a year. At this time all Germans in the UK, including Jewish refugees, were seen as a threat.
When Ernest first arrived in Leeds he didn’t speak any English but remembers clearly the importance of being able to communicate: ‘One of the teachers at the school I went to was Jewish and spoke a little Yiddish. Yiddish has a vague resemblance to German. So we managed to understand each other. Children learn a language very quickly. If you talk to new immigrant young children who come to this country, it’s amazing how quickly they learn to speak English. So for me it was only a question of weeks before I could communicate with my foster family and new friends’.
To hear Ernest’s full story, and a discussion on the theme of ‘the Power of Words,’ join us at Islington Assembly Hall from 9.45 to 11.45am on Monday 29 January.
Three other events have been planned in Islington by other organisations to mark this important date. They are the Stand Up to Racism event on Thursday 25 January; the Chabad 2nd and 3rd Generation Storytelling event on Wednesday 24 January; and The Power of Words event at the Union Chapel on Wednesday 31 January.