Flight and fight: University reflects on the Holocaust

Survivor: Freddy Knoller, who will speak at the University of Sussex Holocaust Memorial Day event, 2010

Daring to resist: Polish-Jewish partisans during World War IIA Holocaust survivor’s dramatic account of life on the run from Nazi persecution will feature in Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations at the University of Sussex on January 27.

The event, free and open to all, will take place at the Chowen Lecture Theatre in the University of Sussex Medical School, on Wednesday 27 January, starting at 1.45pm. The afternoon, organised by the University’s Centre for German-Jewish Studies, will be introduced by the Mayor for Brighton and Hove Councillor Ann Norman and University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing.

Freddie Knoller will talk about his personal experience of the Holocaust, from his battles against Nazi persecution to incarceration in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.

Freddie Knoller was just 20 in 1941 when he fled his native Vienna for France to escape the Nazi persecution of the Jews. He fought in the French Resistance, was captured and deported to Auschwitz in 1943. Freddie then survived the notorious death march to Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp and spent time in Bergen Belsen before liberation came at the end of the Second World War.

Freddie says about his experience during these years: “You can either give up and within two or three days you are dead or you fight to live and adjust yourself to the situation ‘by hook or by crook’. I chose the latter. I had one mission, only, to survive, in order to tell the world.”

Freddie eventually settled in London with his wife Freda in 1950, but it was only 30 years later that he was able to reveal his traumatic experience of the Holocaust, which he recounted in two books: Desperate Journey: Vienna, Paris, Auschwitz (2002) and Living with the Enemy: My Secret Life on the Run from the Nazis (2005).

The latter half of the afternoon includes the screening of a film, Daring To Resist: Three Women Face the Holocaust (1999), made in the United States by Martha Goell Lubell and Barbara Attie. The film charts the heroic actions of three women: a ballet dancer a photographer and the leader of an underground Zionist group, who all fought the Nazis and helped Jews to escape to safe houses or out of Holland, Hungary and Poland.

Professor Christian Wiese, who is Director of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex, points out the relevance of reflecting on Jewish resistance during the Nazi period. He says: “The stories told in this film about the determined will of Jewish victims of anti-Semitic persecution not to surrender to the Nazis’ inhuman intentions are an important element of the history of the Holocaust and an inspiration for contemporary discussions on the possibility and necessity of resistence against human rights violations, war and genocide in the present.”

Holocaust survivors have played an important role in the University’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, as their accounts of pain, loss, strength and survival illustrate most vividly the lessons of the Holocaust. Their stories serve as a legacy of hope (the theme of this year’s memorial day) that we will learn respect for human life from the horrors of the past.

Distinguished scholars round off the afternoon with a panel discussion, chaired by Professor Wiese. The speakers are: Shirli Gilbert, lecturer in Jewish/non-Jewish relations at the University of Southampton; Paul Salmons, head of Curriculum and Development of the Holocaust Education Development Programme at the Institute of Education, University of London; and Leshu Torchin, Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews.

Notes for Editors


The University of Sussex Holocaust Memorial Day is made possible by the generous support of the Association of Jewish Refugees.

The Centre for German-Jewish Studies, established in 1994, has developed into a major institution for the study of the history, culture and thought of Jews from Central Europe and for the training of a new generation of teachers and researchers in this field.

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is commemorated internationally on January 27 each year. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the day in 1945 on which the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Each year, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust urges everyone in the UK to pause and reflect on what can happen when racism, prejudice and exclusionary behaviour are left unchecked.

Holocaust Memorial Day at the University of Sussex

1.45pm                         Welcome address

2pm                             Freddie Knoller:  ‘Living with the Enemy: My Secret Life on the Run from the Nazis’

3.30pm                         Tea, BSMS School foyer

4pm                             Film screening: ‘Daring to Resist: Three Women Face the Holocaust’

5pm                             Panel discussion

How to get there:

Car: Pay and display parking available on campus. See campus map.

Train: Take the train to Falmer and cross the A27 using the underpass to enter the Sussex campus

Bus: Brighton and Hove no 25 to campus. Alight at the second stop on campus for the Medical School.

How to get to the University of Sussex - map

How to get to the Medical School (building number 47) on campus - map

For further details please contact Diana Franklin on +44 (0)20 8381 4721; 01273 678 771 or email d.franklin@sussex.ac.uk

Press enquiries should be addressed to the University of Sussex Press office. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email press@sussex.ac.uk


Last updated: Monday, 18 January 2010