Remembering 20 years of The National Holocaust Centre and Museum

In September 1995, the Smith family were thrilled to mark the successful opening of Beth Shalom, now called The National Holocaust Centre and Museum, after many years hard work. This month the Centre marked its 20th anniversary with a very special event that paid tribute to the Smith family for having the vision and determination to create and develop the Centre and to the Survivors who give of their time each week to share their testimonies with children and adults alike. This anniversary event marks the beginning of a series of year long events to mark the important role the Centre plays as a memorial, museum and centre of education and learning. The events will also look forward to the next 20 years and the important role the Centre plays in educating people about the Holocaust and influencing changes in attitude.

The anniversary event began with a welcome from Phil Lyons MBE, Chief Executive of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum.

Dr. Stephen Smith MBE, Co-founder of the Centre and now Chief Executive at the Shoah Foundation in the US, sent a video message in which he shared his memories over the last 20 years.

We were honoured to welcome our Co-founder and life President Dr James Smith CBE, to the Centre. James reminded the audience that 'hearing' laid at the heart of the Centre and that the Survivors' stories would always be heard and would be the bedrock of remembrance and education. James urged everyone, in this the Centre's 20th year, to double our resolution to carry on being a place of hearing, education and remembering. James reassured the Survivors listening, "Your stories are here for ever."

We shared a song which Dr.Stephen Smith wrote for the opening ceremony in 1995.  This was accompanied by photos of events at the Centre held over the last 20 years.

Survivor testimony is at the heart of the Centre and, as a mark of gratitude to our Survivors who selflessly give of their time each week to share their testimonies, Aneesa Riffat and James Fotheringham read out some of these Survivors' thoughts and comments.

Mrs Marina Smith MBE spoke of the impact of the past on the present and the present on the future.  She publicly thanked her sons Stephen and James as co-founders. "Thank you Stephen and James for your creativity, scholarship and love for the Survivors."  Mrs Smith also thanked past and present Survivors for all their hard work in sharing their stories day in and day out at the Centre. She spoke of her honour in being part of the Centre and what it means to her and her family but, more importantly, what the Centre means to Survivors.

Mr Henry Grunwald OBE KC, The Centre's Chairman, passionately told the audience that the heart of the Centre is the Survivors themselves and we are blessed to have them, blessed because the Centre exists and blessed because it is a beacon to the world. Henry thanked the Centre for a wonderful history, a stable present and the prospects for a wonderful future.

The event was followed by the unveiling of a commemorative plaque showing the names of all the Survivor speakers, past and present who give their testimonies at the centre and a book launch.  The centre was delighted that Eva Clarke was able to promote her book 'Born Survivors' at the anniversary, she was joined on stage by her fellow child survivor, Hana Berger Moran.  The book chronicles the amaising survival of three babies and their mothers, born in concentration camps at the end of WWII.  We were privileged to see two of these miracle babies before our very eyes.