Thought for the Day: Holocaust Memorial Day 2022
“Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness”
“The boy is not a Picasso”.
With these words, in 1946, a London publisher explained why the drawings of Thomas Geve would not be published.
Three years previously, arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau aged 13, Thomas would ordinarily have been immediately murdered, but he was tall enough to pass for a young man and survived.
In the days following liberation, Geve obtained some discarded SS ration cards and colour pencils and then proceeded, in 82 profoundly moving drawings, to sketch the hell on earth he had experienced – the haunting entrance to Auschwitz, the camp’s appalling wooden barracks, the frightened prisoners at roll call and the death marches they endured.
Thomas’ mother was murdered, but he and his father were miraculously reunited in London after the war.
Despite the publisher’s snub, he was undeterred. Incredibly, today, three quarters of a century later, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a new edition of ‘The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz’ is being released.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, these powerfully sad drawings are of immense historic value. Thomas Geve’s childhood sketches remind us of the depths to which ordinary human beings can descend.
The Claims Conference UK Holocaust Awareness Survey recently revealed that 52% of all respondents did not know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Only 24% of adults in the UK knew what the Kindertransport was, while 9% believed the Holocaust was a myth or the number of Jews killed has been greatly exaggerated.
The Talmud teaches that, “whoever instructs their children, also instructs their children’s children, for all time.” Holocaust education is a moral imperative because it is not simply about understanding the past. It provides a harrowing lesson on what happens to a society when hatred and prejudice go unchallenged. It is a way of protecting future generations against the decay of disinformation and the poison of prejudice.
The Bible teaches: “The human soul is the candle of the Lord.” Indeed, we are the guardians of the fragile flame of our humanity.
Sadly, almost all who experienced the Holocaust as adults have passed away and now we deeply appreciate just how precious the testimony of children who endured the Holocaust is. In his book published today, at the age of 93, Thomas Geve, while acknowledging the horrors of his childhood, prefers to concentrate on positivity, hope and survival.
He and all other survivors are looking to us to continue their work. Eli Wiesel said, “Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.” That sacred task now falls to every one of us.