The Holocaust and Wales

For Holocaust Memorial Day, we invited Klavdija Erzen, Programme and Project Manager for the Jewish History Association of South Wales, to tell us more about their project and the series of 20 free teaching resources that they have created and published on our website and Hwb, the Welsh Government's digital learning platform. The resources remind students that the Holocaust affected people from their own communities in Wales.

A photograph of Kate Bosse and Gwyn Griffiths on their wedding day in Pontypridd, September 1939. Kate Bosse-Griffiths was a Jewish refugee who fled to Britain from Germany in 1937. She married Welshman John Gwyn Griffiths in September 1939 and moved to Pentre in the Rhondda. She learned Welsh and became a passionate advocate for the Welsh language, even publishing poetry and books in Welsh. The family moved to Swansea after the war, where she continued to write for the Welsh-language press, supporting the creation of the Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society) in 1962. She died in Swansea in 1998.

What is Holocaust Memorial Day?

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) takes place every year on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It is an international day to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is an occasion for everyone to come together to learn, remember and reflect.

Jewish History Association of South Wales (JHASW)

The Jewish History Association of South Wales / Cymdeithas Hanes Iddewig De Cymru was established in November 2017 to tell the story of Jewish people in south Wales. Since its inception, the project has contributed over 1,000 fascinating photographs and documents to our website detailing the history of the Jewish communities in south Wales. The project aims to uncover, document, preserve, and share the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Jewish communities of south Wales. "In doing this, our aim is to raise the contemporary and historical profile of these communities and show just how much they contributed and continue to contribute towards the economic, social, political and artistic life of South Wales," Klavdija tells us.

"We hope to change attitudes and challenge preconceptions, for the Jewish community to be seen as 'us' rather than 'other’; to be seen as a part of the community rather than apart from it. Holocaust Memorial Day provides us with an internationally recognised event that we can use to further these aims," Klavdija says.

Black and white photograph of Heinz Koppel and Renate Fischl, on their wedding day in 1949. Artist Heinz Koppel was born to Jewish parents in Berlin in 1919. After the Nazis came to power in Germany, they emigrated to Prague, Czechoslovakia, and later fled to the United Kingdom in 1938. His father, Joachim Koppel, founded and worked at the Aero Zipp factory at Treforest and Heinz studied art in London. His mother, Paula, had severe arthritis and was unable to leave with the rest of the family; she was eventually murdered in the Treblinka Extermination Camp.

The Holocaust and Wales teaching resources

Why did the project decide to create the teaching resources? Klavdija explains: "We believe that teaching about the Holocaust in schools is fundamental because, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905). Recent events have shown how true this is; that the issues of the Holocaust continue to resonate today."

"We chose to create bilingual Holocaust educational materials simply because there weren't any. And by creating resources that present a local connection, we can remind students that the Holocaust affected people from their own communities and not simply those from elsewhere; these things happened to their families’ friends and their families' neighbours," said Klavdija.

Photograph of the broken shop windows of a Jewish-owned business that was destroyed during Kristallnacht, Berlin, 10 November 1938. Kristallnacht, literally, ‘Night of Crystal’, is often referred to as the ‘Night of Broken Glass’. The name refers to violent anti-Jewish pogroms, which took place on 9-10 November 1938 across Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. The violent mobs destroyed hundreds of synagogues and burned and desecrated Jewish religious artifacts. 

Catalena Angele, the Learning Officer at People's Collection Wales, who has been working closely with Klavdija and the team on this project, tells us more about the teaching resources. "The Holocaust can be a vast and overwhelming topic for both learners and teachers. Rooting the learning in the stories of local people, and in familiar places, helps to bring the effects of the Holocaust to life for learners." She says. "It removes the idea of 'otherness' – that this happened to other people in another place and time – and instead creates feelings of connection and empathy. This is, of course, valuable in any historical learning, but is, I believe, of essential importance in Holocaust education."

"This link to local history is also essential in schools in Wales, as the Welsh curriculum emphasises the value of teaching about Welsh culture, heritage, diversity and identity and how this can be expanded to develop learners' understanding of the World. The 20 'Holocaust and Wales' resources produced by JHASW tell a wide range of engaging stories. They are thoroughly researched, sensitively written and very engaging. Many of them, particularly the resources on liberation, identity and remembrance, are incredibly powerful and moving," Catalena says.

The liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, April 1945. The photograph was taken from a watch tower used by the German guards by Sgt H. Oakes of No 5 Army Film and Photographic Unit, a subdivision of the British army. The image shows evacuated Camp No 1.

The teaching resources are available on our website and via Hwb and contain Wales-specific examples and stories on topics including:

This photograph shows Paul Bosse (standing, left) meeting Hitler in Wittenberg, Germany, in June 1935. This photograph was taken after an explosion at a nearby munitions factory. Despite all of his work, Paul was dismissed six months later. Paul's wife, K├Ąthe, was Jewish, and Paul's refusal to divorce her meant he was sacked from his job as chief surgeon at the local hospital. Paul Bosse was father of refugee Kate Bosse-Griffiths, renowned Egyptologist and writer in the Welsh language.

1-2-1 Virtual Support Sessions

If you’re a teacher or an educator and want to learn how you can use our website to help learners discover their heritage and develop their sense of cynefin or if you have teaching material that you’d like to include on the People’s Collection Wales website, please get in touch with our Learning Officer, Catalena Angele, email: [email protected]

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is a registered charity, funded by the UK Government, to promote and support HMD. They provide resources and support for thousands of HMD activities every year in workplaces, youth groups, museums, prisons, schools, colleges and universities, places of worship, and more.

To learn more about HMD and this year’s theme, or to access free resources, visit hmd.org.uk

An Introduction to the JHASW Holocaust Education Resources

The resources published on PCW are based on oral history interviews with Jewish people in South Wales conducted by JHASW. In recording these interviews, the JHASW have ensured these stories have been preserved and shared, and not lost to time.

In another related project, the JHASW have created even more Holocaust learning resources based on testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation's archive (University of Southern California). You can learn more about these teaching resources on the 25th of January 2023 at 15:30 in their online training event, hosted by Glamorgan Archives. The event will support teachers to teach about the Holocaust in school.  Book your place

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