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Our Head of Collections’ Perspective: Building Relationships and Collecting Testimony

As Head of Collections, I’m always thrilled to have the opportunity to meet survivors and families as part of the Homeward Bound project, to talk to them about their personal papers and experiences, and work with them to include these in our Archive. The journey to accept new collections is usually (and preferably) a long one, ensuring that all family members are happy for us to look after their material or digitise it if they’d rather retain the originals. Our collection donors become part of our Holocaust Centre North ‘family’ and are assured that any documents, photographs and artefacts are treasured and carefully looked after here, as well as available to a wide range of audiences. There are no ‘dusty boxes’ in our Archive!

Our recent acquisitions include a menorah made by a young man staying at the Bradford Jewish Refugee Hostel and donated by Gail Simon, the granddaughter of the couple who looked after the hostel residents during their stay. Gail has also donated institutional records, a photo album and a home video relating to the Hostel.

Hanukkah menorah made by one of the Hostel boys.
Courtesy of the Simon family

We were also delighted to have the opportunity to meet and record the memories of a world-renowned magician, David Berglas, who sadly passed away this November, but who had allowed us to scan some of his pre-war photographs, depicting life as a young boy in the family home, Villa Berglas, near Berlin. David enjoyed a long and very successful TV, radio and stage career, which can be seen from all his awards, and he entertained me with his famous card trick. He will be greatly missed.

David at home, 2023.
Courtesy of David Berglas

Recently we added some new artefacts to our permanent exhibition, including this accordion which belonged to Conrad Leser, together with a much-loved diamond ring which had originally belonged to his mother who died in Berlin in 1942, and which he presented to his future wife on their engagement. Conrad came here as a student and during his academic career became Professor of Econometrics at the University of Leeds. He even lectured to our wonderful volunteer, Michael, during Michael’s student days.

Conrad’s much loved Hohner accordion.
Courtesy of the Leser family

Our latest acquisition belongs to Suzie Cree, who is Chair of the Bradford Reform Synagogue and who works tirelessly to keep it flourishing. Suzie and her family will be working with us to secure a permanent home for her parents’ documents and photographs over the coming months. In our exhibition you can see the tefillin brought to the UK from Germany by Suzie’s father Michael Curtis, born Moses Skurnik.

We are so proud to accession these new collections, and look forward to welcoming many more during the course of Homeward Bound.

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