“There is a danger that we shall forget those things which are better not forgotten. Certainly, some things should be permanently recorded, so that posterity shall know what we would rather erase from our memories.”
Under the Nazi regime, over eleven million people were killed in concentration and death camps as part of an orchestrated extermination. Six million of these people were Jewish, while homosexuals, communists, the disabled, Catholics and Sinti and Roma peoples were also murdered in unimaginable numbers. At the Miners’, we have used our two exhibition cases (located in Rooms 2 & 3) to place texts that relate to or reflect on the events of the Holocaust. We have also created an informative display board which offers an account of the events that led to the Holocaust, a description of the classification system used in the camps and more information about the religions and minorities that were targeted.
Some of the items in the collection are contemporary to the events of the genocide. Four Weeks in the Hands of Hitler’s Hell-Hounds was published in 1933 as the account of Communist leaders Hans Beimler, which documents his arrest, imprisonment and escape from the Dachau concentration camp. Hans Beimler would go on to fight with (and die for) the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. His account here is chillingly early in the chronology of the concentration/extermination camps, highlighting that leaked information about the horrors of the Nazi regime did not lead to international political intervention.
Similarly, our copy of A Worker’s Day Under German Occupation (from the T.J Jones Collection) begins with: “What you read in these pages is no figment of the imagination”. The pamphlet claims to use accounts, reports and materials smuggled out of Poland to depict the life of an average worker Jan Kowalski – “the Polish for John Smith”. Besides a brief mention of ‘Jewish Ghettos’, references to concentration camps are notably absent. Whether this is borne from ignorance of the atrocities or fear of speaking about them is unclear.
Other items are recollections and remembrances, both individual and collective, that emerged in the decades following the Holocaust. From our Will Paynter collection, Reminiscences of Former Auschwitz Prisoners was published in 1963 in by the Auschwitz Museum. This rare book was then translated by Krystyna Michalik and contains several different first-hand accounts of the extermination camp. I Came Back is another individual account of Auschwitz from a female perspective by Krystyna Zywulska.
We also a hold literature from Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman. Having lived through Auschwitz, losing his wife and young son in the process, Leon dedicated the remainder of his life to educating others about his horrific experiences and campaigning to ensure that Fascism would never gain such a stronghold again. The educational resources he produced, along with audio interviews, are available to borrow from the Miners’.
Another rare item from the collection – also from T.J Jones – is a pamphlet by A. A Milne called War Withour Honour (1940). It was a response to his earlier work Peace With Honour (1934), in which he denounced war. The pamphlet is a succinct and articulate argument for his change of mind; he repeatedly stresses that his earlier views could not have accounted for the rise of Fascism and the ruthless expansion of the Nazi empire. He states, in what serves as an apt reminder of the many who did not ‘have a place in that world’, that:
I believe that Nazi rule is the foulest abomination with which mankind has ever been faced. I believe that, if is unresisted, it will spread over, and corrupt, the whole world. I believe that no decent man, no humane man, no honest man: no man of courage, intelligence or imagination: no man who has ever had a kindly thought for his neighbour or compassion for the innocent: no lover of truth, no lover of beauty, no lover of God could have a place in that world.
If you would like any more information on these items, please do not hesitate do get in touch with us. The exhibition cases and information board will be in place for the next few weeks for students and visitors to view.