Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) takes place every year on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It is an international day to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is an occasion for everyone to come together to learn, remember and reflect. 

Every year, a theme is selected for HMD and this year it is ‘Ordinary People’

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, thousands of Jewish children were rescued through the Kindertransport from Nazi persecution in continental Europe.

Some of these children found sanctuary at a farm outside Millisle, Co. Down, thanks to the efforts of the Belfast Jewish Community who came together and leased the farm to provide a home and place of refuge.

The Jewish refugees, with the help of the Belfast Jewish Community and locals in Millisle and Donaghadee, made themselves at home and quickly settled into life in Northern Ireland.  The farm, centred around Ballyrolly House, was repaired and made habitable and the children, young and old, were given jobs to do on the farm and in the fields. The farm, managed by a Hungarian refugee, Eugen Patriasz with help from the Czech Mr and Mrs Kohner, operated as a Kibbutz and the children received what was in effect a small salary for their work.

Even after the war had ended and the full scale of the Holocaust became known, the farm continued to welcome refugees. In 1946, over 100 children, including some who had survived Auschwitz, were brought to Millisle to rest, and recover from their ordeal.

Between 1938 and 1948, nearly 300 Jewish children had called Millisle their home and many looked back fondly on their time in Northern Ireland.

Larry Kitzler was one of the youngest children on the farm with his earliest memory being wheeled down the path in his pram and getting stuck in the chicken coop! Edith Kohner, who helped run the farm, remembered the sense of community and the kindness of the people and believed it was ‘the best place for us to stay’.

The story of the Jewish evacuees at the farm even inspired an award winning novel, Faraway Home by Marilyn Taylor.

To learn more about HMD and this year’s theme, or to access free resources, visit hmd.org.uk. 

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is a registered charity, funded by the UK Government, to promote and support HMD. They provide resources and support for thousands of HMD activities every year in workplaces, youth groups, museums, prisons, schools, colleges and universities, places of worship, and more.