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The Holocaust through the lens of a survivor

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Odrasli , Mladi, Obitelji
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The Holocaust shook Simon Gronowksi’s life to its core.

On April 19, 1943, he was to be deported to a death camp outside the German-occupied Polish city of Oświęcim, or Auschwitz as it is widely known by its German name. Gronowski was to get to Auschwitz by the 20th convoy train that left the Mechelen transit camp in Belgium, where Gronowski was born.

However, the 11-year-old boy managed to jump off the train and survived the war. The other members of his family were not as lucky - his mother and his 19-year-old sister were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau; his father died in despair in July 1945.

Following the end of the Second World War, Gronowski earned a doctorate in law and worked as a lawyer in Brussels. Inspired by his sister Ita, whose talent as a classical pianist was cut short by her death, he became a self-taught jazz pianist.

In 2005, Gronowski published his autobiography L’enfant du 20e convoy (The child of the 20th convoy). A year later, in 2006, the Holocaust survivor received the Condorcet-Aron Price for Democracy. In 2013, Gronowski met and forgave the SS guard who took him at gunpoint into the wagon of death.

The Holocaust survivor still carries the spirit of forgiveness and he prefers to focus on the present and be positive. “Indeed, the present message is not one of sorrow, but rather of hope and happiness. Long live peace and friendship between all,” he said.                                                                                                           

The event

Originally planned in January to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day but postponed due to the pandemic, the event is tailored to families with children aged 10+. The aim is for the survivor to pass on his memories and lessons of the Holocaust to younger generations.

Gronowski will share his memories and chat with the public in French. A “reflect and respond” session with a museum educator will follow and visitors will be able to contribute their thoughts on a reflection wall.  Gronowski, a self-taught pianist, and his band, will wrap up the day with some jazz music.

The museum will give to visitors a commemorative booklet containing the survivor’s story and a few reflective activities. A digital photo exhibition will highlight moments in Gronowski’s life.  

The timeline

13:00-13:30 Speech by Simon Gronowski (FR)

13:30-14:00 Q&A - Participants chat with Simon Gronowski (FR)

14:00-14:45 Reflect and Respond with a museum educator

15:00-15:30 Live jazz performance by Simon Gronowski and his band

Register for the event - (on-site participation is completely booked up).

As of August 9, online visitors can register and attend the event online by following our YouTube live video where they will be able to watch as well as interact with the speaker during the Q&A session.

Cover image credit: © European Union 2021 - Source : EP