Today (June 24) marks the first international Holocaust Survivor Day; a day to celebrate the huge contribution of survivors to our society.
Following their commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in January, Arsenal Academy players - with help from engagement organisation Big Ideas - put together a special event for staff and Holocaust survivors, Ivor Perl and Miriam Freedman.
The players planned and hosted the event which saw Ivor and Miriam discuss their experiences and consider the question: What is strength?
Below, under-16s player Bradley shares his recollection of the event.
With many of the team contributing to the afternoon, Reuell, Kaleel, Jimi Alex led the event. Everyone showed humility when asking a variety of questions to both Ivor and Miriam around how they have shown strength in their own lives, during the Holocaust and in the years since. At the end, Ivor and Miriam turned the tables on us, asking about our experiences of needing to show strength in our lives.
During an inspiring afternoon, lifelong Arsenal fan Ivor shared his incredible story of how he escaped from Auschwitz, speaking openly about how help from his brother and his determination to survive allowed him to show strength at the time he needed it most. Many years later, Ivor returned to visit Auschwitz, something that was incredibly difficult for him but that he reflected on as necessary for him to remember and to forgive.
Miriam, who shared a similar story to Anne Frank, hid with her family to evade capture by the Nazis. During an incredibly challenging period, Miriam explained how her dream to one day be free and to be involved in sport helped her to keep her faith and discipline in hiding. A strong desire to help others has since meant that Miriam has led a purposeful and inspiring life.
Learning from the amazing and moving insights of our guests, we were all able to think about how we show strength in different ways and at different times in our own lives. We were all inspired by Ivor and Miriam’s effort and determination and were challenged to consider how we apply those characteristics to our own challenges in life and football.
After the meeting, we showed our appreciation by presenting Ivor and Miriam with signed Arsenal shirts and an invitation to come to Emirates Stadium when it is safe to do so. We have also since sent letters to Ivor and Miriam to say thank you for so honestly sharing their story and allowing us to learn from them.
“We were delighted our boys were able to have this opportunity,” explained Academy Manager, Per Mertesacker.
“It was incredibly humbling to meet Ivor and Miriam and hear their stories and I know the boys will have taken a great deal from organising and attending the session.
“I am incredibly proud of our players for their role in organising such an event and look forward to attending future events organised by our players.”
Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.