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Connecting communities and histories: capturing the proud heritage of Jewish social and economic contributions to the UK

Connecting communities and histories: capturing the proud heritage of Jewish social and economic contributions to the UK

Steven Frank and his brothers in Amsterdam - shared with permission of Steven Frank with The National Lottery

The National Lottery

3 min read Partner content

Thanks to players of The National Lottery, £30 million is raised for Good Causes every week, funding projects like “Connecting Small Histories” and helping communities come together across the UK.

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January each year - the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The day remembers the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust alongside millions of others killed under Nazi persecution and in genocides that followed, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

National Lottery funding is used to support a wide range of communities across the UK to champion issues of importance.

One such group is the Jewish Small Communities Network (JSCN) who have received National Lottery funding for a project called “Connecting Small Histories” to record and capture the proud heritage of Jewish social and economic contributions to their towns, and to connect them to the wider history of Britain.

One of JSCN’s volunteer researchers, Anne Krisman Goldstein, uncovered a story of a Dutch family living in Eastbourne. What initially started as research into musicians at Eastbourne’s Grand Hotel led to a poignant story of a Dutch Jewish family.

The hotel’s first musical director in 1903 was Simon Van Lier.

Ms Goldstein found that Simon’s wife, Flora, one of their daughters and a son-in-law, Leonard, who all lived in the Netherlands, had been murdered at Auschwitz.

Simon Van Lier’s British grandson is Steven Frank, a child survivor of Theresienstadt (Terezín) concentration camp. 

Steven was five years old when his hometown of Amsterdam came under Nazi occupation. His father, Leonard David Frank, was a lawyer and helped the Dutch Resistance to hide Jews, at times even in his own home. He arranged papers for them to escape to Switzerland via France.

Leonard could have fled to England but he was the legal member of a board that governed a Jewish mental hospital and did not want to leave his vulnerable patients behind. Sadly, Leonard was betrayed and arrested in late 1942.

Thanks to players of The National Lottery, £30 million is raised for Good Causes every week, funding projects like “Connecting Small Histories” and helping communities come together across the UK.

After the brave intervention of three of Leonard’s colleagues, Steven’s mother, Beatrix, who was English, and her children were placed on the Barneveld List – 700 prominent Dutch Jews who were kept in De Schaffelaar Castle instead of being sent to concentration camps.

With great ingenuity and bravery, Beatrix dressed as a male cleaner to get inside the prison where her husband was kept and tortured and was able to speak to him.

Sadly, Leonard was killed at Auschwitz on 21st January 1943.

Beatrix and her three sons were deported by cattle truck to Theresienstadt concentration camp in September 1944. When they arrived – after a horrendous 39-hour journey – she volunteered to work in the camp’s hospital laundry, aware it was one of the only places with hot water.

She washed her sons’ clothes in secret to prevent them from succumbing to typhoid, feeding them crumbs made into a paste to stave off hunger.

The family survived and were liberated by the Red Army. After a month recovering with the Red Cross, they flew to London with the RAF where she was reunited with her father, Simon.

Beatrix lost her husband, her mother and her sister at Auschwitz. And of the 15,000 children sent to Theresienstadt, just 93 survived, including Frank and his two brothers.

Frank has received the British Empire Medal for services to Holocaust Education, something that is commemorated through the National Lottery-funded JSCN.

Thanks to players of The National Lottery, £30 million is raised for Good Causes every week, funding projects like “Connecting Small Histories” and helping communities come together across the UK.

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Partner content
Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

Find out more