Q: Tom and Lizzy, you’ve been Project Manager and Education Manager for Anne Frank NZ since January 2019. How did you both get involved with this exhibition?
A: Tom - I was a project manager in a hi-tech company in Israel before we moved to New Zealand last year with my husband’s job. I started volunteering at the Holocaust Centre of NZ after I attended a course offered to new immigrants about working here, where they were advertising volunteer roles in Wellington. The Holocaust is close to my heart, so I decided to volunteer at the Centre and shortly afterwards I was employed as a Project Manager on a variety of projects, including Anne Frank: Let Me Be Myself.
A: Lizzy - I moved here from England last year with my husband, a New Zealander from Christchurch, our two children and the family cat. I’ve taught in the UK for over twenty years but I have to go through the lengthy process of registration to teach in New Zealand. I love engaging with people, so I decided to volunteer and when I learnt about the amazing education work the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand does, I joined their education team. One thing led to another and I’m now employed as Education Manager for HCNZ where one of my responsibilities is to oversee the education programme of Anne Frank: Let Me Be Myself.
Q: Do you have any Jewish heritage or personal history that connects you to the Holocaust?
A: Tom - My mother’s ancestors fled Russia about 200 years ago, driven out by a series of anti-semitic pogroms. They settled in France and during the Nazi occupation my grandmother Shoshana hid in the Parisian basement of a Christian family. My grandfather Shaul was born in Romania and immigrated to Paris with his family as a young boy. During WWII he was drafted into the Romanian army, was captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp. My father’s ancestors came from central Europe. My grandfather Jacob was born in Poland near Lodz and my grandmother was born in Hungary, the daughter of a rabbi. Although both came from orthodox Jewish homes, the Holocaust caused them to stop believing in God. My grandfather was in Lodz ghetto for five years, but he ended up in Auschwitz, where my grandmother Chaya-Clara was also sent in 1944. They probably only survived because they arrived there so late in the war.
I grew up in a kibbutz in Israel, a socialist community where everyone is equal and has shared ownership and responsibilities. This might involve doing any number of jobs in the kibbutz community: agriculture, food production, laundry, cleaning. I grew up used to communal living because we all ate, lived and worked together. The people who built my kibbutz were Europeans Jews, mostly children of well educated, rich parents. They came to Israel to build something completely different from what they knew in Europe. These children of orthodox Jews wanted to have a society that was more liberal, where men and women were completely equal. Growing up in this environment I really learnt to contribute because the kibbutz teaches brotherhood and sisterhood.
A: Lizzy - I don’t have any Jewish heritage, but I do have some Roma ancestors on my father’s side. As we all know, they were another group targeted for persecution by the Nazis and have always been subject to discrimination throughout history. As a European, my family was inevitably impacted by WWII. My grandfather was in the British Army before the war, serving in Malta, China and India. When he left the army in 1937, he remained in the reserve force and was called up in 1939 as a member of the British Expeditionary Forces. Evacuated from Dunkirk, he spent the rest of the war fighting in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. My father was born in 1938 and didn’t see my grandfather during the war years, which must have been hard for them both and for my grandmother. When my grandfather finally returned home in 1945, my six-year old father told him to leave because he didn’t recognise the stranger standing on his doorstep. War has so many victims and I think it’s important to think about the impact war has on ordinary people’s lives and society in general. I’m proud that my grandfather fought against the Nazi and fascist regimes and that he stood up for what was right, ultimately contributing to a global effort to make the world a better place for future generations.
Q: What does Anne Frank mean to you both?
A: Tom - I grew up with many Holocaust stories, so I saw Anne’s diary as just one story among many. For me Anne is the voice of all the child Holocaust victims who have no voice. My grandmother went to Auschwitz with eight other sisters but only three survived. We never heard the stories of these other sisters because they died in 1944, whereas Anne’s story lives on because it was written in her diary. Anne is one of the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust and as Project Manager of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial I’m proud that the Holocaust Centre has launched a memorial to remember all those lost children, including Anne Frank. I hope that Anne Frank: Let Me Be Myself will teach people not to be quiet when they see something wrong but to take action instead.
A: Lizzy - I’m an English, Drama and History teacher with a BA and MA in English. As you can imagine, I’m an absolute book lover so Anne Frank means a lot to me. I feel privileged to work as Education Manager for Anne Frank NZ and I see her diary and the exhibition as a powerful tool to educate young people about the Holocaust and how we all need to be upstanders so that this never happens again. I’m heartened by the fact that a young girl who dreamt of being a writer but died because of anti-semitic ideology is now read by millions of people worldwide, in over 60 languages. When I educate school groups at the Children’s Holocaust Memorial, many students ask if Anne Frank appears in any of the photographs on display. As Tom says, Anne is one of the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust and is represented by one of the buttons in the memorial. The fact that children ask me about Anne shows that she's such an iconic figure and has enabled many generations to learn about the Holocaust and the horrific impact of discrimination, prejudice and intolerance. I’m amazed by her positive outlook, despite everything she experiences. I think we’d all do well to reflect on her words: “in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” What an inspirational young woman!