Holocaust survivors gathered together at Guiseley School to launch an educational website telling their stories.
The memories of the survivors, now in their 80s, have been recorded for posterity in a bid to give a message of hope and to help fight bigotry and hatred.
The website is the work of the Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association, a Leeds-based charity, whose chairman, Lilian Black, is herself the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor.
Her father, Eugene, 82, is just one of those who speaks about the horrors of the Nazi period. Eugene was a 16-year-old football mad young man living happily with his family in Munkacs, Hungary, until they were forced into a Nazi ghetto in 1944.
His mother and father and the wider family were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Eugene worked as a slave labourer until liberation from Bergen Belsen. His two sisters were killed in an Allied bombing raid while working as slave labourers in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
Lilian said: “The survivors provide us with details of their lives before and during the war, and what happened to them after liberation. We hope that their visual testimony now available online will be well used so that together we can work towards a more civil society.
“We hope their testimony gives others courage to speak out and act when injustice occurs. We hope too that the site inspires new refugees to see that it is possible to make a new life.
“Never have the lessons of the Holocaust been more important than for the world today. The visual testimony and the remarkable reflections of the survivors who settled in Yorkshire after their terrible experiences illustrate very clearly how the stages of persecution led to the genocide of a whole people. The hope that they inspire through their indomitable spirit is the legacy for the future.”
Lilian described the testimonies on the website as “some of the most compelling I have ever seen.”
She praised the courage of the survivors who had lived to tell their stories and who had built new lives in Yorkshire.
“I think that is the real lesson – that somehow people can rise out of the ashes literally and survive and make a good life.”
She added: “We organised the launch in the school because we see young people as part of the legacy going forward, because we know that survivors are not going to live for ever.”
She was joined at the launch of the website, holocaustlearning.org, by three people who managed to escape the genocide and who have built lives for themselves in and around Leeds.
One of them, Iby Knill, who survived Auschwitz, stressed the importance of remembering the millions of people who died in the gas chambers – not just Jews but also other groups including Russians, Poles, homosexuals, the physically and mentally handicapped and those who were opposed to the regime.
She told the students: “You may think it was a once-and-for-all event – that such things cannot happen anymore.”
But she said the 20th and 21st centuries had seen other genocides, with Armenia, Kosovo and Darfur among them.
She told the young people they wanted to work for a fair and just world, so that the terms holocaust and genocide would relate to the past, not to the present or to the future.
“We are the living witnesses, and we tell you how it really was,” she said. “However painful it is for us to bring back these memories they need to be told. They need to be heard.
“I am putting my faith in you, the young people of today, that you will listen to us and learn. That you will not allow your future and the future of your children or children’s children to be threatened by illogical power games.”
Martin Kapel was nine when he was among the children to be rescued from Nazi Europe on the Kindertransport evacuation just weeks before the war began.
He said: “The aims are not to perpetuate any kind of hatred – I don’t believe in that – but to try to prevent these things happening again.”
Trude Silman also escaped to England as a child, leaving her parents behind.
“Every night before I went to bed I used to say a little prayer – I hope my parents are alright,” she said.
“My father died in Auschwitz, and my mother is one of the people still unaccounted for.”
She said: “It is vital to let people know about these things. The more people know they may realise how bigotry and intolerance have to be fought.”
The website will particularly be aimed at schools, colleges, universities, organisations, community groups and government.