Zahava Kohn (Kanarek)
Zahava Kohn (Kanarek) was born in Palestine and grew up in Amsterdam in the 1930’s. As part of a Jewish family living in Nazi Europe, these were turbulent times: she and her family were rounded up and sent to Westerbork transit camp in Holland, and then later to Bergen-Belsen in Germany. They were released in 1945 and, following a prolonged period of intensive rehabilitation in Switzerland, settled back in Amsterdam, hoping to re-build their disrupted and shattered lives.
In 1958, Zahava moved to London. She married Dr Ralph Kohn (the late Sir Ralph Kohn), a pharmacologist in March 1963, and she has lived in London ever since. She has three daughters and five grandchildren.
In 2001, after Rosy died, Zahava discovered her mother’s archive of documents and memories – precariously collected during the war–which had been hidden away in a small suitcase at the back of a cupboard. Armed with this mountain of memories, Zahava wove together the story of her family’s wartime experiences in the book, Fragments of a Lost Childhood, published in 2009. Since its publication, Zahava – together with her daughter Hephzibah – have visited schools across the UK and Germany to talk to young people of all backgrounds about ‘Surviving the Holocaust’. She brings a selection of these original documents to each talk.
The response to all her sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. In the words of a teacher:
“Thank you both for such an uplifting, extraordinary and inspiring lecture – full of hope, forgiveness, and looking ahead – living life without regrets – phenomenal message for all future generations.”
Zahava’s story has been featured online by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
In January 2017, Zahava was featured in the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow Holocaust Memorial Edition.
Zahava has been actively involved in a range of charitable work over the years, supporting the arts and music as well as scientific, educational and humanitarian causes.
Hephzibah Rudofsky (Kohn)
After graduating from the London School of Economics in 1986, Hephzibah pursued a career in medical research in the UK and then in Switzerland.
In 2006, Hephzibah embarked on a change of career and entered the world of Holocaust education. She took up the position of Schools Tour Director for an innovative theatre production about the Holocaust, which she took to hundreds of schools in and around London. Building on the overwhelming reaction to this production, she formulated an educational component to teach the Holocaust to schoolchildren in a vivid and practical way.
Since 2009, Hephzibah’s passion for teaching the younger generation about the lessons of the Holocaust has taken her much closer to home. In collaboration with her mother, Hephzibah created and developed an interactive educational programme entitled ‘Surviving the Holocaust’, designed and aimed at secondary school pupils. She has been working with her mother, Zahava Kohn, to tell the story of her family’s survival in Westerbork and Bergen Belsen concentration camps to tens of thousands of schoolchildren, providing them with the important opportunity to learn about this pivotal time in history from first-hand testimony. The programme also focuses on post-war life.
There is an added unique dimension to these presentations in the sense that it is a first and second generation, mother - daughter partnership.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In the words of a pupil:
“You read about this in history text books, internet resources, books, but to hear a story of a personal account from their own recollection is an amazing opportunity. This feels like it is a part of a moment in history. Uplifting and inspiring.”
Hephzibah is a member of the Advisory Board for the Centre for German – Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex.
Both Hephzibah and Zahava regularly contribute to education sessions at London’s Jewish Museum and The National Holocaust Centre & Museum in Nottinghamshire. They are regularly invited to speak for the charity ‘Speakers for Schools’.
In April 2015, Hephzibah and Zahava were guests on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and in September 2015, they were awarded the ‘Freedom of the City of London’ for their work in Holocaust education.
On 26th January 2018, Zahava and Hephzibah were guests on BBC Radio 5 Live in a feature commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.