Through our support for the Centre for Holocaust Education, the Centre for Research in Autism and Education, the Pears Building at the Royal Free and Professor Mary Fulbrook’s work on collective violence, Pears Foundation has worked with UCL for almost 15 years.
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Sir Trevor Pears and I were honoured to be present at the unveiling of a plaque to one of the University’s unsung heroes: Doreen Warriner. Professor Warriner was a UCL academic who helped refugees escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.
A development economist in the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies between 1938 and 1966, Doreen interrupted her career to work as the Prague representative of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, her nephew Henry Warriner visited UCL to speak about her life and unveil the plaque in her honour.
“She realised before most people that food, coal and blankets were only a panacea,” he said. “It was essential to get people out of the country.” Praising her powers of persuasion and organisation in arranging visas, exit permits and transport, he added: “The sense of impending doom in Prague contrasted with the bureaucratic lethargy in London, and refugees were not greatly wanted. Then unemployment was given as a reason; now there are other reasons but little really changes.”
Doreen was awarded an OBE in 1941 for her work with refugees, and in 2018 Henry collected a Holocaust Memorial Medal on her behalf at a ceremony in the Foreign Office. “She would have been very proud of that recognition,” he said, before concluding: “I knew Doreen well and I am quite sure that this memorial at UCL, where she spent much of her working life, would have given her more pleasure than any other possible recognition.” You can read more about Doreen Warriner here.
Holocaust Memorial Day at UCL was also marked with a lecture by Professor Mary Fulbrook, one of the world’s leading scholars of twentieth century German history, exploring the extent to which perpetrators of the Holocaust were able to evade justice in the post-war period.
“I don’t think memorialisation of victims is enough,” she concluded. “How do you achieve justice after such mass injustice? And how do we find ways to ensure that the majority of people do not stand by and do nothing?”
The lecture, which was based on her Wolfson History Prize-winning book Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice, can be watched online here. Following the lecture, guests joined a reception to find out about the Centre for Holocaust Education.
The Centre’s training programmes help teachers to understand and communicate the Holocaust, including what led some people, like Doreen, to be rescuers, and others bystanders or perpetrators. It is always inspiring to hear the stories of people like Doreen, who displayed such great courage and humanity, but in order to fully understand the causes, consequences and legacy of the Holocaust we must also hear the stories of those who did not stand up, and reflect on the structures and processes that enable people to become complicit in mass violence. The work we are supporting at UCL enables teachers, students and member of the public to engage with the complexity of the Holocaust and we were proud to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in such a meaningful way.