Holocaust tale leads to special memorial

Fran Elson with her sister Sonia.
Fran Elson with her sister Sonia.
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Holocaust Memorial Day Event, Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, Friday, January 24, 6.30pm.

In October last year, a book was published entitled Escape to Auschwitz.

A cache of more than 250 letters, documents and papers were translated to tell an amazing story of hope, fear, love, laughter and loss featuring three Jewish women from Vienna, torn apart by the Nazi’s hatred of all things Jewish, doing all in their power to be re-united once again.

And those women were the mother, grandmother and great grandmother – Ilse, Hulda and Gisella – of Rothbury’s Fran Elson.

Since the story was reported in October, Fran has been contacted by the North East Representative of Holocaust Memorial Day, asking if she would be willing to put on an event to commemorate that day.

As a result, Fran, together with a number of her friends from Coquetdale Amateur Dramatic Society and the support of the local cinema club, is staging an event to raise awareness to the plight of all those people caught up in genocides since the second world war.

It will be held in the Jubilee Hall on Friday, January 24, and will mark Holocaust Memorial Day, which actually takes place on Monday, January 27.

Fran said: “I think that what must be remembered, is that the Nazi Holocaust is not the only atrocity; countless thousands if not millions have been persecuted and murdered in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and now Sudan and Syria.”

“Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27) challenges hatred and persecution by sharing the memory of the millions who have been murdered in the Holocaust (including my grandmother and great grandmother).

“The experience of those affected by genocide is characterised by forced journeys; in my relatives’ case it was the horrendous journey my grandmother was forced to take to reach Auschwitz, and the equally frightening journey my great grandmother took when she was transported to Riga in Latvia.

“With this event on Friday, January 24, we are hoping to bring together neighbours, to strengthen bonds of respect and to enable us to take a step to create a safer, better future.”

Event details:

Doors open at 6.30pm. There will be a display of photographs, letters and documents, followed at 7pm by readings of exerts of the actual letters by Fran Elson, David and Wendy Richardson , John Lewis and Maggie Wallace.

Tea and coffee will be available.

At 8pm there will be a showing of Hotel Rwanda by Rothbury Community Cinema.

A group of historians from King Edward VI school, Morpeth, have shown an interest in the event and will be filming it for future use.

Pupils at Dr Thomlinson’s Middle School, in Rothbury, are currently studying the Second World War and have asked Fran to put on a showing for their Year 8 pupils during Holocaust Week to provide more insight.