In 1936, my mother was chosen to dance before Hitler at the Opening Ceremony of the Berlin Olympics. Then they discovered she was half-Jewish – and her life would never be the same.
Earlier this year, as we observed the annual Holocaust Memorial Day, my mind turned to my mother, who survived the Holocaust, and her family, many of whom did not. I remembered the story she told about her first brush with Naziism: of an ordinary teenage girl living in Berlin, and the excitement she must have felt at being selected to dance in the Olympic ceremony, and the disappointment and confusion and fear she must have felt when they told her she was no longer wanted, all because her mother was Jewish. I thought about those Games and how markedly different they were to our own. London 2012 was the most open, tolerant, and diverse in Olympic and Paralympic history, a fact which was rightly recognised and celebrated.
With this in mind, I decided to share my mother’s story, and how it has carried on through me, with the world. It is at once an intensely personal family history, but at the same time is the story of contemporary Britain and Europe. I sent it to the Jewish News, and am very pleased that it appears in this week’s edition on page 18.