Harry Potter takes on evil of a different order

6th November 2009 at 00:00
Star narrates schools film for Holocaust Memorial Day

The voice is familiar, as are its dire pronouncements on the pervasive power of evil and the need for hope above all else.

But when pupils next hear Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, he will be in the role of narrator of a short educational film that will form part of the commemorations for 2010 Holocaust Memorial Day.

Legacy of Hope also features the testimony of three survivors: a 10-year-old boy who went on to become the English weightlifting champion, a 15-year-old girl who saw her mother and siblings sent to their deaths, and a Hungarian freedom fighter.

The film, which is intended for use in primary and secondary schools, includes occasional Potter-like touches. When Ben Helfgott talks about his life pre-war, and then says "all this changed in September 1939", black Dementor clouds creep around his chair.

He then describes how his mother and sister were taken into the woods and shot by Nazis. "My childhood ended in that ghetto," he says.

Later, Lily Ebert recounts how she and her family were sent in cattle trucks to Auschwitz. Seventy people were crammed into a single carriage for five days, with only two buckets - one filled with water and one for human waste - to ease their journey.

And Iby Knill, a Hungarian resistance fighter, reveals the humiliations she suffered at Auschwitz. As she speaks, black clouds transform her comfortable, book-filled living-room into an empty concrete hall.

"The shower unit and the gas chamber looked the same," she says. "So we never knew if we were going to be gassed or just showered."

Holocaust Memorial Day is held annually on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Next year's memorial day will mark 65 years since Allied troops revealed the full horror of the now-notorious death camp.

The 10-minute film is accompanied by online teaching resources and a dedicated education website.

Carly Whyborn, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, hopes listening to survivors' stories will help today's pupils learn lessons of tolerance. "You can't just learn about history: you have to learn from it," she says. "History is something we look back on, but we're looking back with a purpose."

She hopes pupils who learn about the Holocaust will learn to accept difference in their own lives. "Bullying is mostly to do with being outside of someone's narrow view of what normal is," she said.

"Let's pledge to listen to the memories of survivors, and let their words influence how we live our lives today," Daniel Radcliffe says at the end of the film. "We can strive for an inclusive society where we celebrate our difference. We can learn from the survivors of the Holocaust, and become part of the legacy of hope."

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