‘Sometimes silence says everything’, Kaplinsky tells Holocaust testimony conference

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‘Sometimes silence says everything’, Kaplinsky tells Holocaust testimony conference

The presenter and newsreader, who has interviewed 112 survivors, movingly addressed a symposium hosted by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and partnered by Jewish News.

Natasha-Kaplinsky-with-first-generation-refugees-and-survivors-alongside-International-Holocaust-Testimony-Forum-organisers-Association-of-Jewish-Refugees-and-Lord Pickles. Pic: AJR
Natasha-Kaplinsky-with-first-generation-refugees-and-survivors-alongside-International-Holocaust-Testimony-Forum-organisers-Association-of-Jewish-Refugees-and-Lord Pickles. Pic: AJR

Natasha Kaplinsky stressed the importance of having a duty of care as an interviewer of Holocaust survivors at a two-day symposium on survivor testimony.

The journalist was part of a panel on producing Holocaust testimonies from the perspectives of interviewers and interviewees, alongside historian Rosalyn Livshim and survivors Eva Clarke, Jackie Young and Kurt Marx.

The session was chaired by Dr Bea Lewkowicz of AJR’s Refugee Voices.

The conference at Lancaster House was an initiative by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), partnered with Jewish News.

Left to right: Jackie Young, Kurt Marx BEM, Rosalyn Livshin, Natasha Kaplinsky.
Pic: Michelle Rosenberg. April 19th 2023, Lancaster House

The presenter and newsreader interviewed 112 Holocaust survivors and liberators in 2016 and was awarded an OBE for services to Holocaust commemoration the following year.

“Once you receive the interview,” she told the assembled guests, “you are seared by it. There is a sense of responsibility, of bearing witness to it. Over the years I think I can recall almost every word of every interview. It was so emotional. It was so important to do. It is amazing how you can connect so deeply with someone over such traumatic circumstances.”

AJR CEO Michael-Newman-and-Natasha-Kaplinsky. Pic: AJR

She stressed how important it felt to stay in touch with the survivors and their families after each interview.

“A lot of interviewees felt it was really important to do this before they died,” she said. “It’s the most enormous privilege to help a survivor share their story.”

The last question she asked each survivor she interviewed was whether they felt lessons had been learned.

“The most horrifying answer was given to me then,” she said, “actually, which was no. Despite all the horror they had shared with me and the absolute depths of humanity that they had explored in their testimony, almost the worst part was that lessons had not been learned. With what has happened with Russia and Ukraine, there are so many examples, that we have not learnt the lessons of the past. That for me was the saddest answer.”

Speaking to the Jewish News about the importance of Holocaust testimony for the next generation within her own family, she said: “One of our children is really interested and feels a sense of responsibility but you have to feel where they are at. I don’t think you can burden the next generation.

“I think it’s how they experience it and what they want to do with it. How it’s relevant is what is happening in the world around us, with the invasion of Ukraine, with the hate crime that we see up and down the country and with the Uyghurs (a Turkic Muslim ethnic minority in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang).”

“It’s about where they are at in their journey and whilst a teenager might not be interested when they are 13, they might pick it up when they are 15 or 16. There are points in people’s lives where it becomes relevant and it’s just finding that access point and helping them reach that information rather than forcing it to them.”

In 2007, as part of the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are?, Kaplinsky visited Slonim in Belarus to find out more about her ancestry and discovered that her own paternal great-grandparents, Raphael and Melkaa were among the 2,524 Jews massacred there in the Holocaust.

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