A Holocaust centre in the north of England is a recipient of the prestigious King’s Award for Voluntary Service 2023, the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The accolade for Holocaust Centre North, equivalent to an MBE, is in recognition of its more than 50 regular volunteers – many of whom are first, second and third generation survivors – and the outstanding contribution they have made in both the running of the Centre based at the University of Huddersfield and in the preservation of history.
Holocaust Centre North is one of 262 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to achieve the esteemed award this year – and only one of 29 specifically from Yorkshire.
Founded by survivors and their descendants as the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA), Holocaust Centre North is an exhibition and learning Centre as well as vital community hub for the region.
Its volunteers participate in a diverse and vital range of projects and activities to not only tell the global story of the Holocaust but to do so through local stories from those who subsequently created new lives in the north of England.
This includes first and second generation survivors giving their first-hand, living testimonies to schools and community groups; volunteers working closely with staff, researchers, artists, and the Centre’s archivist helping preserve and bring the collection to life, in addition to volunteers working both remotely and front of house to welcome visitors and keep the Centre running day to day.
Martin Kapel BEM (93), who came to the UK as a child refugee on the Kindertransport and gives talks to school on a voluntary capacity said: “Receiving the King’s Award for Voluntary Service for our organisation is a profound honour that validates the efforts of every volunteer.
“It’s a tribute to the spirit of service over self, and to me personally, it’s an affirmation that every small act of kindness contributes to a legacy of change. I and other survivors of the Holocaust gathered around Holocaust Centre North because we believe that by sharing our stories of persecution, the world can grow more compassionate. This award is a celebration of community strength.”
Six representatives of Holocaust Centre North, including director Dr. Alessandro Bucci, will receive the award crystal and certificate from the Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Ed Anderson CBE in an awards ceremony next year.
In addition, two volunteers from the Centre will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in early summer 2024, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.
Dr. Alessandro Bucci said: “We are really thrilled that the tireless work of our remarkable volunteers has been recognised with this prestigious honour. The vital work that we do at the Centre to ensure that history is preserved and passed down the generations could not be done as effectively were it not for their time, contributions, experiences and their collective determination to raise awareness of one of the darkest chapters in contemporary history.
“With antisemitism and Islamophobia on the rise and the sad reality that many of our survivors are no longer with us, shedding a spotlight on the risks of baseless hatred in society is more timely and important than ever. We are truly honoured that the support our volunteers give us to help us do this – and help inspire others to value human rights, freedom and equality – is being recognised with this Award.”
The King’s Award for Voluntary Service was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and, following his accession, His Majesty The King emphasised his desire to continue the Award. Recipients are announced annually on 14th November, The King’s Birthday.
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