Holocaust Centre family receive rare triple honour
A FAMILY who founded the UK's first Holocaust memorial centre in Notts are to receive a rare triple honour.
Marina Smith and sons James and Stephen will receive honorary degrees from Nottingham Trent University.
Awards: Marina Smith with, from left, MPs Stephen Twigg and Vernon Coaker and sons James and Stephen, at the opening of The Journey exhibition.
Fifteen years ago, the family created the Holocaust Centre in Laxton, which has since welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors. Stephen, who is now executive director of the Shoah Foundation – founded by Hollywood director Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles –is unable to attend today's graduation ceremony but Mrs Smith and James will be at the Royal Concert Hall to receive honorary Doctor of Letters awards.
Most of the visitors to the Holocaust Centre, where the peaceful setting of the north Notts village is ideal for reflection in the memorial garden, are schoolchildren.
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There they have the opportunity to meet a survivor of the Holocaust, several of whom live in Notts, learn about their experiences and reflect on the lessons this history holds for the future.
The centre is home to The Journey, the country's first Holocaust exhibition aimed at primary school pupils, which follows the story of a fictional Jewish child, Leo Stein.
Much of the award-winning exhibition focuses on the Kindertransport, the rescue mission which brought 10,000 young refugees from Nazi Germany and occupied territories to the UK without their parents in 1938-39.
Also based at the centre is the Aegis Trust, a genocide prevention organisation, founded by the Smiths in 2000.
Dr James Smith, chairman of the Holocaust Centre, said: "We're thrilled to be sharing this award, which celebrates not only the work of the Holocaust Centre and Aegis Trust but also the strong ties we have with Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and the whole local community.
"It recognises, too, that the creation of the Holocaust Centre was a family effort. We could not have done this without each other, without the generosity of our supporters, nor without the family of survivors who give of themselves and their experiences to help educate a new generation about the dangers of prejudice and ideas that can divide a society."
It was during a family holiday to Israel in 1981 that the brothers first recognised that Christianity began in the country but had become far removed from its Jewish origins. Ten years later, a day at Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial, convinced them that British people needed to confront the reality of the Holocaust.
They envisaged an exhibition, which would occupy a few rooms of the farmhouse used by their parents as a small Christian conference centre.
What evolved was Britain's first dedicated memorial and education centre to focus on the history and consequences of the persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime in the Second World War. As well as commemorating the victims, the centre sets out to educate the younger generation about the Holocaust and more recent atrocities in Armenia, Cambodia and Rwanda.
The Aegis Trust has strong links with Nottingham Trent University, through its thriving student branch. Former members recently opened The Charity Shop in Goosegate, Nottingham, to support Aegis' work.