By Becca Arlington
Two students from the university attended the Poetry Out Loud event at Manor Farm Library in Ruislip to read poems and discuss the atrocities of genocide.
According to Poetry Out Loud organisers, the event was intended to “bring to life the voices of those who suffered, survived or perished throughout the Nazi persecution during World War Two”. It also strove to highlight other attempted genocides that have been seen around the world. These included those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The latter country’s war is ongoing and has caused the death of between 80,000 to 500,000 people.
The event was part of a series run by the library for Holocaust Memorial Day. The second, entitled The Other Schindlers, told the stories of people who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Arriving at Manor Farm Library for the event, students were shown to a secluded area at the back of the upper floor, where chairs had been set up for the guests. Poems had been carefully selected and were divided into sections, depending on their topic, and the Brunel students had agreed in advance to read these for the other guests.
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorated 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. A Brunel lecturer, library staff member, and the event’s organiser, Dr Joe Norman opened the discussion by reading a poem written by Pavel Friedmann, who had died in Auschwitz in 1944.
Incidentally, this year also marked 25 years since the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Therefore, the second poem, read by student, Amber Thomas, (pictured right), detailed the devastation that its writer, Misba Seikh, saw upon visiting Srebrenica in 2015. She stated that “people are shocked to discover that 20 years on, the remains of victims are still being discovered and buried every year.” Seikh seemed to emphasise the need for events like this, in order to educate others. She continued, saying that “we have a duty to work against any hatred in our societies. We should not downplay mockery or dehumanisation of any group of people, as this leads to the most devastating consequences.”
Creative Writing student, Thomas, was the great-granddaughter of a German man who had fought to save those in his community whom the Nazi’s deemed unworthy. She therefore mentioned how gratified she was to attend this event. She spoke about the importance of standing up for others, and this was reflected in her reading of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem, First They Came. The poem addressed the danger of not speaking up for others, as there would then be nobody left to speak out for the subject when he was targeted. “Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Another attendant of the poetry reading, Liz, mentioned her experience witnessing a different devastating brutality. She had been an aid worker in Zimbabwe during Mugabe’s early rule and had seen trauma first-hand. Liz was a vital part of the discussions at the event. She talked about the importance of teaching global history to future generations, so that ignorance cannot spread. And, as is the slogan for Holocaust Memorial Day, such things happen, ‘never again’.