Photos by the Rev Ken Houston
An exhibition recalling the horrors of the holocaust, staged by teenagers in north Belfast, has been a resounding success.
The exhibition was prompted by a visit to former Nazi concentration camps. It was scheduled to open in St Andrew’s Parish Hall, Glencairn, on January 14 and 15, but at the request of a local councillor was extended for an additional three days.
The project was facilitated by Sister Valerie Thom of the Church Army, and involved 12 young people aged from 12-17, who although non-church goers attend weekly meetings in Glencairn hall for bible studies and other activities.
Valerie said there had been good interest from the public in the exhibition. There is a possibility it may be re-staged in the Synagogue, and a visitor from the south of Ireland is anxious to get Valerie’s group of young people involved in the ‘Youth Connecting Peace’ group. The exhibition also attracted interest from daily and broadcast media and was featured at length on UTV news.
The holocaust project arose out of a visit by three of the group to St James’s Palace last year, where they met Prince Edward. Also there on the day were representatives of the Holocaust Day Trust.
The trio returned to north Belfast anxious to learn more about the holocaust, and as a consequence a 15-strong group travelled to Berlin and Poland in September where among other places they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Schlinder’s factory.
One of the instigators of the project, 17-year-old Nathan Peoples, was unable to go on the trip as he was recovering from a bone marrow transplant, but Nathan had a special role to play when he officially opened the exhibition in the presence of a number of high profile guests.
Sister Valerie said this was very much a community project. It was assisted by pupils from Harmony Primary School and was a multi-media show, including paintings, DVD and video footage, a graffiti board, a railway track, replica Auschwitz beds, and a model of Anne Frank’s house.
“This is a real community thing with the schoolchildren, teachers, community leaders and parents involved,” said Valerie.
“Learning about the holocaust has helped teach the children about hatred. It teaches them that people are hated without cause and this is what can happen. They realise that things still happen today, even at situations like football matches.”
Valerie went on: “The children have been really touched by the suffering people have gone through, and while it won’t really hit many of them until they are older, this is about laying foundations.
“There is a quote at Auschwitz saying ‘If we don’t learn from history, it will happen again.’”
She said the children were all extremely proud of the success of the exhibition, and were already talking about their next project – yet to be decided.