Choose Compassion

The Derby High School was immensely grateful for the visit of Dorit Novak who is the Director General of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is the Centre for Holocaust Remembrance and Dorit Novak spoke movingly, using stories and posters to show the importance of remembering the holocaust.

The first story recounted how a 13-year-old boy in Brussels was given the name Henri Novak to protect him as he was taken to live with a non-Jewish family to protect him from the Nazis. Henri was allowed to cycle to see his Jewish parents but he discovered one day to his horror that the Nazis had taken them.  He was Dorit’s Father in Law. This began the theme of those who were prepared to take risks in the name of compassion, who were prepared to take a stand against evil.

Other stories followed including one that recounted of ten British soldiers, themselves prisoners of war, who sheltered a 16-Year-old Jewish girl who was destined to be killed as part of a ‘death march’

Again and again the thread running through all these actions was making a choice to do good, to risk security for the sake of a shared humanity.

Several poster designs were held up illustrating powerful messages. One showed a striped shirt in amongst other folded shirts, illustrating that the horror of the holocaust cannot be ignored. Another showed someone who had been forced to write out lines as a punishment saying that, “a Jew is not my friend.” These ink that wrote these lines was blurred with the tears of the writer.

We must see what we see. We all have a responsibility to stop evil. We also have to choose compassion over revenge. The audience sat for silently for the whole talk, clearly moved by what they heard and saw.