Sara Elkes

Posted by pt91 at Sep 16, 2015 12:35 PM |
Sara Elkes

A childhood photograph of Sara Elkes.

We have learnt, with great regret, of the death of Sara Elkes on 8 September. Sara received an honorary Master of Laws from the University in 1996.

Sara Elkes, 2 November 1924 – 8 September 2015

Sara was born in 1924 in Kaunas (Kovno), the then capital of Lithuania. With the help of the British ambassador to Lithuania, with whom he was friendly, Sara’s father, Elkhanan Elkes, who was an internationally known doctor, managed in 1938 to send Sara and her older brother, Joel, to Great Britain. A year later the Lithuanian state was destroyed by the Soviets, only to be occupied by the Germans two years later. The Germans and their Lithuanian helpers started murdering the Jews of Lithuania. Elkhanan was elected by the Council of the Jewish Ghetto of Kovno and as such did his best for the following two years to protect the inhabitants of the ghetto from the worst excesses of the German authorities. In November 1943, Elkhanan managed to smuggle a last letter to his children out of the Ghetto. He wrote:

“My soul is scorched. I am naked and empty, and there are no words in my mouth...The Germans killed, slaughtered, and murdered us in complete equanimity. I saw them; I was standing in their presence as they were sending many thousands of men and women and children and infants to be butchered...I embrace and kiss you and say to you that I am your loving father to my very last breath."

After the closing down of the Kovno Ghetto he was sent to a sub-camp of the Dachau Ghetto in 1944. Sara’s mother Miriam was sent to the Nazi concentration camp in Stutthof and survived, moving after the war to Israel.  Sara moved first to Israel where she joined her mother, and then to Leicester. Her experiences through the Holocaust shaped her future professional career. For the rest of her life she worked to promote the memory of her parents through The Miriam and Elkhanan Association for Inter-Community Understanding. Amongst other activities she brought young people from both Israeli and Arab communities to work together both in the United Kingdom and in Israel.  In 1992 this was recognised in Israel by the award of the Distinguished Service Award for Jerusalem.  In 1996, the University of Leicester awarded her an honorary Master of Laws.

When the University of Leicester established a Centre for the Study of the Holocaust she welcomed the opportunity to fund a series of lectures in memory of her parents to be delivered in the University of Leicester. This brought a number of leading world scholars of the Holocaust to Leicester, including Yehuda Bauer, Peter Longerich, David Cesarani, Deborah Lipstadt, and Steven Katz.  Two volumes have been published containing the texts of many of these lectures which gave the opportunity to students studying at the University and its Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies to discuss the lessons from the past with internationally renowned scholars.

The Stanley Burton Centre has lost one of its deepest and oldest friends.

Alexander Korb, Director, Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Aubrey Newman, Professor Emeritus and Associate Director

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