UK criminals learn from genocide survivors

Conference brought together probation staff and voluntary agencies to discuss measres against torture, genocide and hate.

Holocaust surv 298.88 (photo credit: Yad Vashem/Yossi Ben-David)
Holocaust surv 298.88
(photo credit: Yad Vashem/Yossi Ben-David)
The testimonies of a Holocaust survivor and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide were the highlights of a law enforcement conference Tuesday in London. The conference brought probation staff and voluntary agencies, who work with criminal offenders to help prevent recurring offenses and protect the public, together to discuss how they work with survivors of torture, genocide and hate. The conference, entitled "Surviving Holocaust, Genocide and Post Traumatic Stress" was organized by London Probation, a law enforcement agency which is part of the UK Probation Service. Over 60 professionals from the participating agencies attended the conference. The unique one-day event commemorated the survival of communities that have often arrived as refugees fleeing unimaginable horror and resettled in the UK. Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), led the morning session and introduced Holocaust survivor Dr. Trude Levi and Mary Blewitt, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and director of the Rwandan Survivors Fund. Delegates were also addressed by Nick Hammond, Equality and Diversity officer with special responsibility for foreign national offenders and Carla Ferstman, director of the Redress Trust. Karen Pollock commented, "Much of our work is with teachers and students, but it is important that we impart the lessons of the Holocaust to all people in all walks of life. This initiative was enlightening for all involved and from seeing the reaction of the audience while Trude and Mary spoke, I witnessed how clearly moved the delegates were. I am delighted the Holocaust Educational Trust could help." Alan Weston, from London Probation and acting head of Equality and Diversity, commented, "In evaluating the event, delegates continually referred to feeling both privileged and humbled by the accounts of the survivors. Both survivors brought moving and inspirational accounts of survival against unspeakable horror in a way that moved all in the audience. Many delegates commented that the impact of hearing testimony from a survivor highlighted the prejudice and hatred many still face today and reinforced the necessity that we act upon these lessons. "Opportunities such as this conference are essential for improving agency practice and response to our service users, be they victims or offenders. Our thanks go to Karen Pollock and all at HET for without their assistance this inspirational and unique event could never have taken place," Weston added. Established in 1988, the HET educates young people from all ethnic backgrounds about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The Trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training, an outreach program for schools, teaching aids and resource material. The conference was a part of "Diversity Week" run by Probation London. Now in its third year, it celebrates the contributions of minority communities to British society and celebrates the different strengths they bring to employers and UK services. This year there was particular focus on the survival of communities, highlighted by the partnership with HET and the conference's inclusion of testimonies of Holocaust survivors who fled the horrors that occurred in continental Europe and built an vibrant, active and strong Jewish community in the UK.