Our guest speaker Bernd Wollschlaeger described, to a packed, and completely hushed audience, the shocking moment he discovered that his father was a Nazi war “hero”, decorated by Adolf Hitler.
It was when he saw his German parents’ reaction to the Israeli flag at the Munich Olympics and two days later, their reaction when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered, that Bernd Wollschlaeger realised that the glaring lack of knowledge he had of his father’s wartime history was significant. As he spoke quietly to a packed, and completely hushed audience at the Yad Vashem – UK Foundation Gala Dinner on 2nd February, including Rabbi Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, and Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador, he described the moment he found out that his father was a Nazi war “hero”, whose medal had been pinned on him by Adolf Hitler. His shock was so great that it would be many years before he could even be in the same room as his father, and the rift never healed. Through close contacts that he had already established with the local Jewish community, he found comfort in Judaism and eventually converted, made Aliyah and served in the Israeli army. His first visit to Yad Vashem in the 1970’s showed him the importance of presenting and preserving the evidence about the mass murder of the Jews, and he was delighted to support the vital work of the world’s central repository of this evidence.
Trevor Asserson, chairman of the Dinner spoke about the problems of prejudice, bias and omission facing Jews and Israel in the British media and how the work of Yad Vashem, with its world-wide reputation, is so crucial in this battle against anti-Semitism. Arron Ferster, a grandson of a Holocaust survivor made particular mention of the disturbing trend in the media to use Holocaust imagery to describe current events and draw parallels between these events and the Holocaust and the importance of Yad Vashem’s worldwide educational programmes.