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Holocaust Witness' Son Visits Durham Cathedral

26 January 2016

The son of a Polish resistance fighter, whose Jewish stepmother and half sister were hidden from the Nazis in occupied Poland during World War Two , will be visiting Durham Cathedral next week to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2016.

Since being awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship in 2011, Durham University Physics lecturer Dr Marek Szablewski has been researching his hidden Polish family history and the journey that brought his parents to Yorkshire after World War Two. As part of his research, he travelled to Warsaw to work on his project ‘Surviving Warsaw 1939-1945: Untold stories of Occupation and the Ghetto’, talking to relatives, searching archives and museums, and visiting sites of special interest to fill the gaps in his late father’s stories and documents.

On his journey, Marek discovered how his grandfather used his skills developed during his colourful career, including roles as a revolutionary socialist and an undercover detective, to hide his third wife, who was Jewish, and their daughter during the Second World War and Nazi Occupation of Poland.

Marek has attended workshops at Durham Cathedral for Holocaust Memorial Day for the last three years and is looking forward to returning for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016. He said: “Conveying my family’s story to school children from all over County Durham is an incredibly rewarding opportunity. I have thoroughly enjoyed leading workshops at Durham Cathedral over the last three years, and look forward to sharing my findings with a much larger audience for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016.

“My aim is to disseminate the stories, for young people to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi oppression. Once the witnesses have gone, who will tell their stories?”

Marek will share his family’s story with invited school pupils and their teachers, as the culmination of a day of workshops and activities organized by Durham Cathedral, Durham County Council and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Members of the public and visitors to Durham Cathedral are welcome to listen to Marek’s talk, which starts at 1.00pm on Wednesday 27 January. Limited seating will be available at the back of the Nave.

Charlotte Rowbotham, Head of Education at Durham Cathedral, said: “We are delighted to welcome Marek to Durham Cathedral on Holocaust Memorial Day to hear his family’s fascinating story. By researching his family’s history and sharing their story, Marek is helping to ensure that the horrors of the death camps are never forgotten.”

For more information about this event, please visit www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/whatson 

For more information about Holocaust Memorial Day, please visit hmd.org.uk