Every year, Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th focuses on a different theme and this year, the theme is survivors. At the heart of Holocaust Memorial Day is a dedication to ‘learn something new about the past’.
How do people react in the immediate aftermath of unimaginable suffering? How can life be rebuilt after such trauma? Is justice after genocide possible? What role do we in the UK have towards individuals, communities and nations who have survived
Holocaust Memorial Day is not only about commemorating past genocides and honouring those who died, but about standing with those who survive.
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
This desire to learn is embodied in Zoe Josephs. Born in Manchester in 1915, Zoe moved to Birmingham and graduated from the University of Birmingham before marrying Dr. Harry Josephs in 1939. Zoe Josephs was the founder and leading personality, up until her death in 1998, of the Birmingham Jewish Historical Research Group. Between 1980 and 1998, she conducted research with the group on locally related Jewish history. Her research was acknowledged as extending the account of the Jewish population in England beyond London and into the provinces, and providing larger public access to these stories.
The papers of Zoe Josephs were deposited by the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation and are accessible by appointment in Archives and Collections at the Library of Birmingham. Many of the papers in the collection relate to the research for her book Survivors which includes a dedicated chapter of case studies, following the lives of refugees from the Holocaust (BCol 19.8, floor 4, Library of Birmingham). An extract of her book can be found on the Birmingham Images website, along with an article which describes her book as ‘a remarkable personal history of 89 refugees’. The full catalogue for the Zoe Josephs papers (MS 2524) can be accessed online through the Connecting Histories website, and for details of how to make an appointment to view items from the collection, please visit the Library of Birmingham website .
It seems only fitting that this year we remember Zoe Josephs, who worked so hard to remember the survivors.