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Holocaust survivor visits Northumbria to share inspirational story

Press release   •   Jan 28, 2016 09:27 GMT

One of the youngest known survivors of the Holocaust has spoken about her experiences at Northumbria University, Newcastle, to mark this year’s Memorial Day.

Eva Clarke was born in Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Austria in 1945, three days prior to the collapse of the Third Reich and liberation of the camp by the US Army. Eva and Anka, her mother, were the only remaining survivors, following the death of 15 other family members in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Northumbria student Michaela Crawley contacted Eva to give a talk at the University and helped organise the lecture for Holocaust Memorial Day, which was held in partnership with Newcastle City Council and in conjunction with the Holocaust Education Trust and the Anne Frank Trust.

Michaela, a first-year History student, said: “For the last three years I have been active in organising Holocaust Memorial Day events following a Holocaust Educational Trust course known as the Lessons from Auschwitz. This, coincidentally, was also when I came into contact with Eva for the first time. Following a very successful event that I arranged last year in my school I felt I had to try and bring the event to the University with me to involve even more people in Holocaust education.

“I spoke to the Head of History at Northumbria, Michael Cullinane, to ask if it would be possible and managed to contact Eva and confirm that she would speak at our event. I have heard Eva's testimony twice now and I am honoured to finally get to meet her in person as it was her story that convinced me that I wanted to teach and that History was definitely the discipline I wanted to specialise in.”

She added: “One of the first sources I was ever presented with when learning about the Holocaust was a quotation from a German philosopher claiming 'we learn from History that we do not learn from history.' I believe through education we can prevent humanity from repeating its mistakes and that is why I am taking an active role in Holocaust education and preventing prejudice.”

Eva has shared her story with communities, schools, colleges and prisons, and has campaigned to ensure that those who died during the Holocaust are remembered. Her mother’s story is also featured in a new book by bestselling author and journalist Wendy Holden. Born Survivors, highlights the experiences of three expectant and new mothers living in concentration camps.

Also speaking at the event at Northumbria was Newcastle City Council Leader, Councillor Nick Forbes, and the University’s Associate Dean for Arts, Design and Social Sciences, Professor Tom Lawson.

He said: “We are delighted that Eva Clarke has been able to join us for Holocaust Memorial Day. Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on our collective past and our obligations to all members of the international community in the past, present and future.

“The theme of this year’s commemorations encourages us to think about our role as bystanders to atrocity which is an essential theme as we face the challenges of our interconnected world. We are especially pleased to host this event as it is organised by one of our History undergraduates, showing how far Northumbria students are impacting on the world from the very beginnings of their studies with us.”

Michaela’s tutor, Dr Michael Cullinane, Reader in US History and Head of History, added: “This event owes a great debt to one of our most enterprising undergraduate students, Michaela Crawley. Michaela, a first-year student on the single-honours History programme, expressed an interest in raising awareness of the Holocaust and reached out to the Head of History and Associate Dean Academic of the Faculty of Arts, Design, and Social Sciences.

“While the University often hosts public events on Holocaust Memorial Day to stress the social importance of holocaust education, the initiative to do so has never come from a first-year student. We in the History subject group are proud that Michaela has organized a wonderful event, and are as proud that she is one of ours.”

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