Leisel Carter - Building Bridges between Communities
Leisel Carter was born Leisel Meier in Hildesheim, Germany. She was sent alone as a young child of four out of Germany to escape the Nazi persecution of Jews. She left in December 1939, travelling through Norway and eventually arriving in Britain in January 1940 where she was looked after by foster families. In Germany, Leisel's father David Meier was badly beaten up in the streets and subsequently died of his injuries. He was cremated against Jewish tradition and his ashes buried. Many members of Leisel's family died in the Holocaust. It has been Leisel's lifelong ambition to find her father's grave. Despite making numerous enquiries she has been unable to locate it successfully.
At the end of June 2012 the HSFA decided to see whether it would be possible to find the location of Leisel's father grave so we contacted the Mayor's office in Hildesheim to make enquiries. We provided as much information as possible and an old photograph of his grave stone. We also provided the weblink to the HSFA's website so that they could read Leisel's story. Then an amazing thing happened. Liane Ulbig, who works for the Mayor's office in Hildesheim, took the matter up and within days wrote back to tell us that they had located the grave and also sent pictures of the gravestone. The Regional Association of Jewish Communities in Lower Saxony helped to find the grave. Furthermore the Mayor sent Leisel a letter of invitation to visit Hildesheim, and offered all assistance possible.
Leisel has now organised her journey to visit Hildesheim in November for the local Kristallnacht commemoration, accompanied by her two daughters and granddaughters. She will take part in the ceremony led by the Mayor of Hildesheim Mr Kurt Machens. Leisel will address the audience to tell her story. Leisel has always been committed to sharing her story to alert today's generations about the dangers of stereotyping and persecution which led ultimately to the Holocaust. By Leisel and her family undertaking this journey, they are building bridges with a community in Germany which ultimately destroyed much of her family - but she survived and is now returning with her family to honour her father and a lost community and to join together with today's Germans to say 'never again'. The City of Hildesheim also commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January, with a commemoration ceremony each year in the City Hall.
Without the assistance of Liane Ulbig and the leadership and values of the Mayor none of this would have been possible - they have accepted full responsibility for the past, even though they were not the people who perpetrated the crimes against Leisel and her family and the millions who lost their lives in the Holocaust. We are two sides of the same coin, we who ask how could this have happened and they who ask how their forefathers could have done this.
Leisel has agreed to report back on her journey. Film footage will also provide a digital record.