Today is Holocaust Memorial day, a day worldwide where we think of the atrocities of the holocaust and say “Never again”… Thinking back over the events of the last two weeks, and to the funeral of the 6 victims of the holocaust I was honoured to volunteer at, I realise how lucky I am. The majority of my family that I know of, have no direct links to the holocaust. I know of some cousins who perished in Majdanek (Thanks to the power of facebook!) but unlike many of my friends, I have no real direct link.
While we say “never again” we also note that anti-Semitism is on the rise. Where I don’t have a direct link to holocaust, I do carry with me a reminder of anti-semitism everywhere I go. You see, my grandfather, was “Philip Phillips”, an odd name if you ask me. We knew the family name was Smolleransky, (I think that’s how it’s spelt) but I’d always assumed the family name had been changed when the family had come to England and my Great Grandparents were somehow clinging on.
It wasn’t until I made a flippant comment about this to grandma about a year ago, that she explained;
My Grandfather was born Philip Smolleransky. During the war, his Dad (My great grandfather) decided to fight for the British army… but was scared to use the name Smolleransky – Grandma’s words were “It wasn’t a good idea to go to the British army with a name like Smolleransky… you wouldn’t be accepted”…. People in England struggled to pronounce Smolleransky and used to refer to my Great Great Grandparents (are you keeping up?) as “Mr & Mrs Phillip” as my Great Great Granddad’s name was Philip….
… so through fear of anti-Semitism, the family name was changed to Phillips… My grandfather’s birth and wedding certificates say “Changed by deed poll”, and the course of our family history changed forever.
It scares me, that in 2019, with the world more advanced that it ever has been… where each race knows more about each other than ever before we’ve not learnt the lessons of our recent history of 1941-1945 and anti-Semitism is back up on the rise.
I don’t for one moment plan to change my name back… mainly because as a child I struggled to spell Phillips and wouldn’t want to pain my children with Smolleranksy… but I do often wonder what the world would have been like, if my Great Grandparents weren’t fearful all those years ago, and I’d been Steven Smolleransky.