Sir Martin's Newsletter & Bookclub May 2020

May 2020
This moment in history

Sir Martin's May Books
The Boys, Triumph Over Adversity 
The story of child Holocaust survivors and their survival

Atlas of American History 
The United States, it's development and its place in the world

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Sir Martin's Blog
Editor's Note:  This mid-May was to have seen a reunion of The Boys and their families in Windermere, in the English Lake District.  They were to return, as a group, to the place in which many of them had spent their first peaceful summer, where they began their journey to a new reality and their new lives.  What can their story tell us about loss and survival in our current situation?
Triumph Over Adversity
an excerpt
530 words/2 ½ minute read
The story of the boys, from their earliest childhood days in Europe, to their life and work today, is one that displays many elements of the troubled, yet aspiring human condition.  Before 1939 they were part of a settled world that, for all its problems, was evolving and even flourishing, before it was deliberately and irrevocably destroyed.  They are the eyewitnesses of vanished communities and vanished patterns of life which Jews had practiced for many centuries.  Then, while the world around them was literally consumed in violence and fire, they were subjected to the tyranny of slave labour over a prolonged period, and saw the cruelest of tortures practised by one group of human beings on another.  They survived, but only just; many of them were very near to the death indeed at the moment of their liberation; some were in what might have well been their final coma, had liberation been delayed even by one more day. (Continue Reading)
Mala Tribuch, Zigi Shipper, Chaim Olmer, child survivors who came to Britain.
Photo by Garry Crystal

              From Esther Gilbert                                                        
What can we learn from History?
                                             1115 words/6 minute read
Back in 2019 BC (Before Covid-19), I used to wonder whether Holocaust education had reached its sell-by-date:  it's so old; anyone born in the last century is already old; it happened even before the Internet.  War has continued.  Genocide which owes its name to the slaughter of Jews during the Second World War, has continued.  Famine, disease and displacement as a result of war has continued.  What does “Never Again” mean if we “remember” but do not change our behaviour?  Is learning about the Holocaust relevant?  Has Holocaust education taught us anything or is it too foreign a concept, too last century?
I began my January newsletter asking whether the year 2020 would be a year of vision.  Little did I know we would be looking at the year and our lives and our world with completely new eyes!  Today we are living a moment of history as the creep of coronavirus encroaches upon our lives and our families, on our livelihoods and our way of life, and even on our planet in ways we could never have imagined only a few months ago.  Day by day the body count rises; day by day the stock markets fall; day by day uncertainty grows.  Parents are worried about their jobs, children are worried about their schooling, and in families where there was strife before, tension escalates. 
But is it all doom and gloom? 
(Continue Reading) 

Jewish youngsters in the Lodz ghetto producing leather goods in one of the German-run factories.  This colour photograph was taken by a German official in the ghetto. 
From Martin's book Never Again

Read more on The Boys
Read Gilbert
 Honouring the past in an uncertain present 
 Lucy Olphert's photo of a bagpiper on Mount Maunganui beach at sunrise,
25 April 2020, Anzac Day, New Zealand.

New Zealand and Portugal came onto the UK and world news as nurses from countries were singled out in particular for having nursed Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his Covid-19 induced stay in Intensive Care.  Jenny McGee, the nurse from Invercargill at the southern tip of New Zealand has brought her country good publicity, this in addition to their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's policy of elimination of the coronavirus as opposed to containment of it.  New Zealanders have followed strict guidelines for remaining within their household "bubbles" and slowly their economy will be brought back to life.
One casualty of the lockdown in New Zealand has been the cancellation of the annual commemoration of Anzac Day to honour the memory of the 16,000 Australian and New Zealand troops who landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915 and sustained crippling losses.
(Continue Reading)

Sheryl Ertel's Anzac Day memorial, Matamata, New Zealand

Read more on The First World War
                                                      515 words/2 minute read
Sir Martin in the News
Haaretz,, "The Real Story of How Hundreds of Young Holocaust Survivors Were Rehabilitated in Postwar Britain" by Rosie Whitehouse, posted 18 February 2020:
"They were chosen from 2,000 young survivors in Theresienstadt and would go on to form a tight-knit friendship group known as 'The Boys' (Careworkers at the Central British Fund began to use the term not long after the youngsters arrived from Czechoslovakia, and the name stuck).  ... their story was told by British historian Martin Gilbert in the 1996 book The Boys:  Triumph Over Adversity ...."
How have you been affected by Covid-19?
Please, share, connect
And finally ...
We are going through perilous times that are affecting all of us in one way or another.  Martin, as you know, was a great believer in the value of personal testimony and eyewitness accounts.  This newsletter reaches the Inboxes of people in many countries, who are all going through similar restrictions of movement, and anxiety for the future.  Let this be a forum for us to come together – send an email either by hitting the Reply button, or by writing to  What is it like for you, for your family, what is the situation in your area?  How have you been affected by Covid-19 and its reverberations?  With your permission I will print some of your responses (no email addresses or personal information).  We are living a moment in history.
As Samuel Pisar wrote in his Holocaust memoir Of Blood and Hope, “I cannot share my anguish with any of my fellow sufferers, and yet their anguish is the same as mine.”


A note about the heading:  And the Sun Kept Shining … is the title of Bertha Ferderber-Salz's Holocaust memoir.  Bertha survived the Cracow Ghetto, Plaszow, Auschwitz, and Bergen Belsen, and found her two young daughters who had been hidden.  Throughout the years of starvation, slave labour, disease and death, the sun kept shining.  Was that a comfort to Bertha or a question?

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Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre
Preparations are being made to do online programmes of Professor Shirli Gilbert's classes. 
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Modern Jewish History: A Deeper Look
Course, led by Professor Shirli Gilbert


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