Holocaust Memorial Day Annual Lecture
Each year, we hold a lecture to honour and remember all those who died in the Holocaust and the impact it had on the lives of survivors.
We work with the Holocaust Educational Trust whose aim is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today.
Date: 13 February 2020
Venue: MH002, Mary Seacole Building, Nursery Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1AD
Holocaust survivors, Peter and Marianne Summerfield, will share their experiences, as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
The testimony will be followed by a question and answer session to enable students to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth.
The lecture will be chaired by Professor Phil Dearden.
About Peter Summerfield
Peter was born in Berlin in 1933, 4 months after Hitler came to power. His parents were already suffering from the restrictions placed on Jewish people by the Nazis and, from 1936, they tried to find a country which would accept the family as immigrants. In August 1939 the family was finally able to escape Berlin on the last train before war was declared. However, all their possessions and even their luggage were stolen so they arrived in England in August 1939 penniless and with only their hand luggage. Peter well remembers and relates his early experiences in Berlin and on the eventful journey. His grandmother and uncle were later murdered by the Nazis.
Peter and his family spent the war years in England. Peter’s father was interned on the Isle of Man as an ‘Enemy Alien’ and Peter spent the war in London. During the Blitz, he slept in the underground at night and gradually his parents slowly rebuilt their lives.
After the war, Peter completed 2 years’ National Service in the British Army, including time on Active Service in Egypt. He then went on to study Law at Oxford and qualified as a solicitor. He has been married to Marianne for more than 40 years. Between them they have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.
About Marianne Summerfield
Marianne was born in Breslau Germany, which is now Wroclaw in Poland, in July 1938. Marianne’s parents were both dismissed from their careers in the legal profession because they were Jewish. On Kristallnacht (9th November 1938), her father was arrested along with thousands of other Jewish men and sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Her mother managed to persuade an official at the Gestapo Headquarters to find a missing letter which gave permission for Marianne’s father to live and work in England. After receiving this letter, her mother went straight to the Camp with it and her father was released and immediately travelled to London. Marianne and her mother were able to join him in February 1939. Unfortunately, permission to England could not be obtained for Marianne’s grandmothers and they were both transported to Auschwitz in 1942 where they were murdered.
Marianne’s parents were unable to work as lawyers in England. For nearly a year, her father was interned in the Isle of Man as an ‘Enemy Alien’. During the war, they lived in shelters during the Blitz but eventually Marianne was evacuated into the countryside.
After finishing school, Marianne became a teacher and then went on to open a chain of nursery schools. She later opened a School teaching English as a Foreign Language.
You can read about some of our previous speakers below.
Previous Holocaust Memorial Day speakers have included...
Speaker: Professor Robert A. Shaw
‘A Life in Science - Gifted by the Kindertransport’
Kindertransport refugee gives a fascinating insight into his life at the University of Wolverhampton’s Annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture
Professor Robert A. Shaw, a 90 year old scientist who came to Britain as a refugee on a Kindertransport in 1939, spoke for the first time about his life to an audience at the University of Wolverhampton.
Professor Shaw shared his life story at the University’s Annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture, which was chaired by Ian Austin, M.P.
After the Anschluss of 1938, life in Professor Shaw’s native Vienna became increasingly difficult for the Jewish community, and in 1939 his mother found a place for him on a Kindertransport to Britain.
In his lecture, Professor Shaw talked about his childhood in Austria as an enthusiastic boy scout, his experiences as a refugee, as farmyard boy in Suffolk, errand boy in London during the Blitz, followed by volunteering for the British Army.
Professor Shaw served in the India and South East Asia Command (SEAC) and studied in the jungles for his London Matriculation to enable him to enter university. His life was almost certainly saved by the Kindertransport as he arrived less than two months before the outbreak of the war.
His hard work and determination have allowed him to become a well-known scientist and he has given lectures all over the world.
Guest speaker: Mala Tribich
Following the German invasion in 1939, Mala Tribich and her family were forced to move into the newly established Jewish ghetto in her home town, Piotrków Trybunalski, the first in Poland. Shortly afterwards, her mother and eight year-old sister were murdered in a nearby forest.
When the ghetto was liquidated, Mala became a slave labourer until November 1944, when the surviving Jews were deported.
Separated from her father and brother, she was deported to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp and soon after was transported in cattle trucks to Bergen-Belsen. The conditions there were appalling and she contracted typhus. At the time of the liberation of the camp by the British army, Mala was barely alive.
Three months later, she was sent with a large group of children to recuperate in Sweden where she remained for nearly two years. During that time, Mala discovered that she was not the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust: her brother Ben had also survived.
In March 1947, Mala and her brother were reunited in England. She subsequently rebuilt her life and has two children and three grandchildren.
Guest speaker: Dame Stephanie Shirley
Dame Stephanie (Steve) Shirley, age 82, is a workplace revolutionary and successful IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist. www.steveshirley.com.
Her life story begins with her 1939 arrival in Britain as an unaccompanied Kindertransport refugee. In 1962, she started a software house, Freelance Programmers, that pioneered new work practices and changed the position of professional women, especially in hi-tech. She went on to create a global business and a personal fortune shared with her colleagues.
Since retiring in 1993, her focus has been increasingly on philanthropy based on her strong belief in giving back to society. In 2009/10 she served as the UK’s first ever national Ambassador for Philanthropy. Her charitable Shirley Foundation has initiated and funded a number of projects that are pioneering by nature and strategic in impact, totally £67m to date. The focus is on IT and her late son’s disorder of autism.
Her memoir Let IT Go was published in 2012 www.let-it-go.co.uk.
Dame Stephanie has been much honoured. In 2013, she was named by Woman’s Hour as one of the 100 most powerful women in Britain. In 2014, the Science Council listed her as one of the Top 100 practising scientists in the UK. In 2015, Dame Stephanie was given the Women of the Year Special Award. Her TED Talk in 2015 was to a standing ovation from more than a thousand of the world’s most recognised technical entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators and doers. It has received 1.7m views.
Guest speaker: Henri Obstfeld
Henri Obstfeld was born in Amsterdam in 1940. His mother was a secretary and his father ran a slipper factory. In May 1940 German troops occupied Holland, and by 1942 Jews in Amsterdam were being rounded up and sent to work camps.
Although he was only two years old, Henri’s parents received papers directing him to present himself at a certain time and place in Amsterdam with personal documents, a rucksack and supply of food. Henri’s parents took him to his Uncle Dolek’s and waited to see what would happen. The call up date passed and no one came looking for Henri so his parents took him home.
Henri’s parents were alarmed by this episode and they managed to locate a Dutch couple living in Arnhem, Jakob and Hendrika Klerk, who agreed to shelter Henri. In late summer 1942 Henri moved in with his new ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ and his name was changed to Hendrik Klerk. Friends and family were told that he was a nephew whose parents had been killed in the Luftwaffe bombing of Rotterdam. Henri lived with the Klerks for the next two and a half years.
In 1944, as Allied troops advanced from France and Belgium into The Netherlands, Arnhem became a more dangerous place to live. People were advised to evacuate, so the Klerks moved into their daughter’s house in the suburbs. As the fighting intensified, they had to move again, this time to a small village called Harskamp, where Henri was again introduced as the Klerk’s nephew. Harskamp was liberated by Canadian troops in April 1945.
During this time Henri’s parents had found a hiding place in the city of Haarlem, near Amsterdam. They lived with Henri’s uncle, his wife and another Jew, and were provided with food by members of the Dutch Resistance. They returned to Amsterdam a few days after the end of the war, living in the factory before settling in a nearby town.
Jakob and Hendrika Klerk were honoured later for their bravery. They had put their own lives in danger to rescue Henri. Henri came to Britain in 1961 and now lives in London. He regularly shares his testimony in schools and colleges across the UK.
Guest speaker: Uri Winterstein
Uri Winterstein was born in Bratislava, Slovakia in October 1943. His parents were both lawyers but his father’s main passion was the welfare of the Jewish community and he was very active in Jewish affairs from his university days to the end of his life.
When Uri was only a month old, his parents put him in the care of a non-Jewish woman, and he was not reunited with his family until after the war. They did so because they realised that it would be very difficult to keep a baby quiet if they needed to go into hiding, an eventuality for which they felt they always had to be prepared.
Nine of Uri’s wider family were sent to Auschwitz, where they were killed. During the War, Uri’s father was a member of an underground movement known as the Working Group, whose biggest single achievement was to halt the deportation of Jews from Slovakia for almost two years (from October 1942 to late September 1944). They achieved this by bribing key SS officers and government officials.
In autumn 1944, Uri's father was deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in what is today the Czech Republic. His mother and sister managed to evade being deported as well that day, and went into hiding underground. However, they were eventually caught and also sent to Theresienstadt.
When the Russian army was approaching Bratislava, the family Uri was with decided to flee and gave him to a local peasant woman to look after. This woman did not wish to be bothered with the care of a child and Uri received little attention. When he was reunited with his family at the end of the war, aged 19 months old, he could not walk or talk at all and ate only a roll dipped in coffee, the food he had eaten during his stay with the peasant woman. Despite this, without the minimal care she gave him, he could not have survived.
After the war, life returned to a semblance of normality. Following the takeover of Czechoslovakia by the Communists in 1948, his family left the country and ended up in Brazil, where Uri grew up.
Uri’s parents tried to protect him by not dwelling on the past but focusing on the future, and he thought that he had escaped any trauma. However, when about 15 years ago he was asked to do a readingat a Holocaust Memorial event, he broke down in the middle of the reading and wept uncontrollably. He then realised that his and his family's experiences during the Holocaust had affected him more than he had imagined.
Uri is married and has two daughters, a son and five grandchildren. He lives in Chiswick and has been speaking in schools for the Trust since 2013.