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How the children of a small village in Northern Ireland made sure their story becomes part of the UK Holocaust Memorial.

We were lucky enough to run a digital workshop with the wonderful Millisle Primary School in Northern Ireland to paint stones for the UK Holocaust Memorial in London.

The school has a special connection with the Holocaust. The nearby farm and children’s home housed Jewish children who came to the UK seeking refuge on the Kindertransport.  Prior to the outbreak of World War Two, nearly 10,000 Jewish children came to the United Kingdom to escape the Nazis in a relief operation that became known as the Kindertransport. 

Kindertransport children looked after in the village of Millilse attended the primary school where local children befriended them and helped them learn English. Some of the grandparents of the children painting stones as part of the workshop, remember sitting next to Jewish children in school helping them with their English or playing football together outside.

Millisle in County Down is on the coast. Former Principle Linda Patterson told the children that some of the Jewish children would sit on the wall staring out to sea, hoping that their parents might be on one of the boats they watched sailing past. She explained how many of the children never saw their families again but how some had returned as adults to visit the village that had welcomed them as children.

Today’s children at Millilse Primary School chose to paint the beach where the Jewish children would have walked and the brown suitcases they had to bring all their belongings in. Many of the children’s stones featured the Ballycopeland Windmill, a well-known landmark close to the village, or tractors and chickens to symbolise the farm where the children stayed.

The stones painted tell the story of how this village in Northern Ireland became a place of refuge and sanctuary for Jewish children at the worst of times. The story reminds us how the Holocaust wasn’t something that happened far away from our shores, but how it also became part of our own history, just like it has in Millilse.

If you would like to take part in the Foundation Stones project and make your contribution to our new national memorial, please get in touch on FoundationStones@big-ideas.org