The Centenary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration: Britain, Palestine and Israel

By Jane Harries, Cymdeithas y Cymod peace activist, human rights observer and Wales for Peace Learning Coordinator.

Balfour Declaration WCIA Debate Leaflet Oct 2017

The Marble Hall of the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff was packed to overflowing on the evening of 18th October 2017, the air thick with expectation. The Cardiff Branch of the United Nations Association (UNA) had brought together two eminent speakers to talk about the historical context and present consequences of the Balfour Declaration – a document whose centenary is marked today, 2nd November.  It was clear we were in for an interesting evening.

So what was the Balfour Declaration, and why should we remember it today?  Does it have any significance for us in Wales?

The Balfour Declaration is in fact in the form of a letter written by Arthur James Balfour, Foreign Secretary in David Lloyd George’s wartime coalition government, to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community in Britain.  The key words are as follows:

‘His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’

Balfour_portrait_and_declaration

The first speaker, Avi Shlaim – Jewish historian, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and married to the grand-daughter of Lloyd George – started off the evening with a historical analysis.  He defined the Declaration as a typical colonialist act. The British had no moral or legal right to give a ‘national home’ to Jewish people in Palestine, having consulted neither with the Arab leaders, nor the Jews nor the British population. Nor was Palestine theirs to give.

Behind the scenes there were political motives. David Lloyd George wanted Palestine for the British in order to gain influence over the French and because of access to the Suez Canal.  He also wanted to dismember the Ottoman Empire and was willing to engage in double dealing to do so. Overtures were made both to Arab leaders and also to the Zionists, whom Lloyd George regarded as powerful and influential.

Jews had lived scattered across the globe before the First World war but at the end of the 19th century a nationalist Jewish campaign grew up in the form of Zionism, whose aim was to establish a national home for the Jews. Zionism particularly appealed to Lloyd George, steeped as he was in the Biblical passages and hymns of his chapel upbringing. This deep emotional connection may have been one reason why he became influenced by Dr Chaim Weizmann, Zionist Leader in the UK and later first President of Israel. And so Lloyd George’s government bowed to Zionist pressure and issued the Declaration, ignoring other Anglo-Jewish voices at the time, including Edwin Montagu, the only Jew in the cabinet.

Balfour_Declaration_War_Cabinet_minutes_appendix_17_October_1917

The second part of the Declaration is often forgotten – that is that the civil and religious rights of ‘existing non-Jewish communities’ in Palestine (over 90% of the population at the time) should be respected.  The British Mandate in Palestine, issued by the League of Nations in 1923, included a responsibility to implement the Balfour Declaration.  The Mandate was, however, essentially pro-Zionist and led inevitably to the series of events we are familiar with today: the Arab revolt of 1936 – 39, the rise of Zionist terrorist activity against the British and Palestinians, British withdrawal from the region, and the foundation of the State of Israel mirrored by the Palestinian Nakba (= catastrophe, mass migration) in 1948.  The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is one of the most entrenched in the world and continues to blight lives today.  This is particularly true for the Palestinians, who have seen their homeland shrink and their human rights whittled away under a now 50-year military occupation.  Even the area which the British government recognises as a future state for the Palestinian people is now occupied by 700,000 Israeli settlers.

The second speaker, Professor Kamel Hawwash of Birmingham University, Palestinian commentator on the Middle East, explained the consequences of Balfour today.  He outlined the effects of the Israeli Occupation for those living on the West Bank, including loss of land, freedom of movement and livelihood, difficult access to education and health care, and subjugation to continuous harassment and violence.  In the Gaza Strip the population essentially lives in an open prison, deprived of many resources we take for granted, including clean water and proper sewage systems.  He then turned his talk to address an unusual question.  The state of Israel is more or less exactly the same size as Wales.  What would be the situation today if the Balfour Declaration had promised a homeland for the Jewish people in Wales, not in Palestine?  Using parallel maps, he brought this supposition to life, with swathes of Welsh land having been taken up into the State of Israel and Cardiff a divided city.  This helped us to see the Declaration from a different perspective.

As the evening wore on, there was strong feeling from one young member of the audience that the speakers were one-sided; she pleaded to hear the other side.  A student of Atlantic College, it appeared that she had spent a lot of time listening to the arguments of Palestinian and Israeli students living in her house. So what can we say about the Balfour Declaration that is more balanced and even positive?

The Balfour Declaration was of its time – as Avi Shlaim said essentially a colonialist document – so perhaps it should be judged as such.  It feels obvious from the wording of the document that the author was trying to balance what was felt to be a justified case for the Jewish people to have a homeland with the rights of the indigenous population. The problem is that this double-dealing didn’t work out in practice, with both sides seeing the British as compromising their cause.  And are we really justified in thinking that such a declaration or deal couldn’t be made today – for oil, or influence, or post-Brexit trade deals?

Balfour Palestine Mandate

It is true that Jews have been persecuted over centuries, including in pogroms in the late 19th and early 20th century. In a humanitarian global society, we surely would applaud the attempt to offer a safe haven for the persecuted, and the Balfour Declaration can be seen as such. What wasn’t foreseen, however, was that those persecuted may turn persecutors in their turn and deprive the indigenous population of their rights. What would the authors of the Declaration today say to the descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians forced to flee their homes in 1948 – and some again in 1967 –  many still living in refugee camps across the Middle East?

Balfour - West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Theresa May has talked about her ‘pride’ in the Balfour Declaration and in the creation of the State of Israel, a key ally for Britain in the Middle East.  Whilst rejoicing that persecuted Jews, including Holocaust survivors, found a homeland in Palestine, what do we feel about the plight of the dispossessed? Theresa May’s current government supports a 2-state solution in principle. What does the perpetuation of a military occupation do to the soul and psyche of the Occupier? Surely a conflict that is allowed to go on for so long cannot bring good for either side.

The Balfour Declaration is not a document that people know much about in the UK.  In Palestine it is part of everyone’s awareness – generally recognised as the starting point from which everything began to unravel, leading to a continuous process of dispossession which continues today.  To illustrate this point let me take you back to an August evening in East Jerusalem in 2012. At the time I was serving as a human rights observer on the West Bank and that evening we were called to an incident in Silwan. When we arrived we realised that the cause of the problem was seemingly small: an Israeli settler had parked his car in the middle of the road, preventing people from moving up or down. It was however Ramadan, and just before the breaking of the fast, and tempers get frayed. As we started talking to local residents and the Israeli armed police who had inevitably arrived, the expected question came: “Where are you from?” “Britain”, we said. “Ah, Balfour!” the local resident retorted – and went off into a tirade. The good thing was that once this had blown over he started joking with us, and the tension was released. The settler moved the car, and the incident passed off without any repercussions. This was not a lone incident, however. I have lost count how many times I have had to apologise for Balfour on the West Bank.

Bearing everything in mind how do we, the present generation, view the Balfour Declaration?  On the positive side, we can see it as an attempt to be balanced and to provide safety and security for persecuted Jews. It certainly was instrumental in the events leading to the creation of the modern State of Israel.  It can also be seen as an essentially political deal – an attempt to favour those who were believed to have influence whilst paying lip-service to the Arab leaders. It is hard to avoid the reality however, that the Declaration set off a string of events in the region which still have repercussions today, resulting in one of the world’s most intransigent conflicts and spelling death, dispossession and poverty for thousands.

Balfour-Israel-Palestine_peace.svg

The Israeli Palestinian Peace Process

Some sources:

The Balfour Declaration – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration

The Balfour Declaration – New Statesman, a more critical view: https://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/08/arab-palestine-jewish-rights

The Balfour Project  – Lloyd George –  critical view of Lloyd George’s part in the Declaration: http://www.balfourproject.org/lloyd-george/

Avi Schlaim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avi_Shlaim

What is Wales had been offered as a Jewish Homeland – Middle East eye> http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/what-if-wales-had-been-offered-jews-homeland-palestine-zionist-israel-526573400

Article on Theresa May’s stance – Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/balfour-declaration-israel-palestine-theresa-may-government-centenary-arabs-jewish-settlements-a7607491.html

Chaim Weizmann: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Weizmann

Palestine – Israel: Effects of Occupation – an educational pack (from the US): http://www.palestineinformation.org/dig_deep

Jane Harries’ blog from Palestine: https://janeharries.wordpress.com 

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Welsh among the ANZACs: WW1 in Palestine on the Centenary of Beersheeba, 31st Oct 1917

Hidden Histories of Welsh Fallen in Israel

By Eli Lichtenstein, North Wales

    

The Battle of Beersheba, British Palestine – now Israel

The story starts exactly 100 years ago (31st October 2017). In the Battle of Beersheba, the British army was taking what used to be my hometown, Beer Sheba from the Turkish army. The city was conquered mainly by Anzac cavalry. However, it would be impossible to take the town (whose main importance was, and still is, as a junction point) without heavy infantry involvement to the west of the parochial town. From there the joint British Anzac forces, split in a fanlike movement to Gaza in the west, and Hebron and Jerusalem in the north east and all  the way to the north. And what was until then part of the Damascus province became Palestine (and later part of Israel).

But as time passed something odd happened. We, the locals, remembered only the Anzac cavalry battle and somehow completely forgot all the rest i.e.  the Infantry and even two pilots (English, and Australian) who took part in the battle in the area, and were buried there. It is hard to say why. Is it somehow the romantic notion of a bygone era versus brutal and unglamorous modern warfare that makes us remember the cavalry and forget the rest? If so one might assume that it was, in hindsight, the last battle of its kind.  Furthermore it took place in the ‘Holy-Land’ at the town of Abraham against the ‘infidel’ and the ‘Bosch’.  One might assume that it struck a chord with the general public and could be used for propaganda purposes. On the other hand, could it be more a reflection of the Israeli attitudes following the War of Independence and the resentment created during the British rule of the area?

Either way, the results were the same. We all believed that the WWI cemetery near the old Ottoman Turkish station was solely occupied only by Anzac soldiers. I think I would still believe it to be so to this day,  if I hadn’t moved to North Wales and met several locals who told me that their great-great uncles are buried in Beer Sheba Israel.

When I finally visited the cemetery, I found that, contrary to popular belief, most of the graves are not of Anzacs – of 1179 graves at least one third are graves of Welsh soldiers. Furthermore approximately 80% of those who killed on the day of 31st October 1917, did not belong to the Light Horse Brigade, ie.  80% of the casualties were British. Which, again begs the question of how and why we choose to remember historical events.

It would be interesting therefore to find letters and photographs of those Welsh soldiers who died and are buried in the Beer Sheba Cemetery so that after a century in which they were forgotten by history we could bring their memories, thoughts and experiences back to life. By doing so I hope we could learn something about how the lives of their families and communities were affected, and a bit more about the consequences of war.

Pvt Percy Chandler – one of many Welsh Fusiliers who died and have memorials in Beersheba, British Southern Palestine (now Israel). Also recorded in the Welsh WW1 Book of Remembrance:   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to the Welsh Fusiliers in Beersheba Cemetery, many came from the local North Wales area – like Private Ifor Jones, who lived in York Villa Llandudno:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some Welsh soldiers came from South Wales like Private D.E. Matthews from Merthyr Tydfil, of the Civil Service Riflemen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then finally it was the first time that I noticed that some of the tombstones are not only engraved in English, but in Welsh: Cwsg Milwr, Cwsg (“Rest Soldier, Rest) – T Roberts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then and Now

Above the WW1 cemetery shortly after the capture of Beer Sheva. See the train station master’s house (mid building) and the train in background and possibly a convoy of camels between the two buildings.

Below, the cemetery at 2017

   

Temple Tales #1: The Cold Case of the Russian Doll

Russian Dolls.jpg

By Jeffrey Mansfield

In a cabinet in the library at Cardiff’s Temple of Peace sits a ‘matryoshka’, a Russian nesting doll. Around the base a band of embossed tape bears the inscription:

“Presented by Russian Youth Delegation to IVS/UNA International Service Workcamp Butetown 1966”

The IVS (International Voluntary Service) began life as the British branch of Service Civil International. The UNA (United Nations Association) in Wales is today UNA-Exchange, based at the Temple of Peace. ‘Workcamps’ are two to four-week, community-based volunteering projects for international volunteers.Doll base

The doll had been cracked and repaired at some time. The factory label under the base showed it had been made in 1966 in the city of Semyonov, Russia, a major centre for traditional handicrafts.

As a new volunteer at Wales for Peace my job was to discover the hidd

en history of our ‘matryoshka’: how had she got here, and what was the workcamp referred to in the inscription?

The only other information we had was a photograph from Robert Davies‘ book All Together, showing a group of volunteers at the 1966 workcamp mentioned on the doll. Robert is a distinguished pioneer of international volunteering and founder of VCS Cymru, today the oldest volunteer bureau in the UK.

Searches through the Temple’s own archive and the South Wales Echo of 1966 drew a blank. Our doll’s hidden history was indeed well-hidden! Undaunted, we pressed on and we were able to locate an audio recording of an interview between Robert Davies and the volunteers recruited for the camp.

There were several VCS/UNA/IVS international workcamps in Cardiff during the 1960s. In 1964 a project was based at the former Rainbow Club, a children’s club in Butetown, Cardiff’s docklands. The following year, another camp helped to create a playscheme for children in the Splottlands area of Cardiff. There were four workcamps in Cardiff alone in the summer of 1966.

At the time of the visit by the Russian Youth Delegation in August 1966, a workcamp was in progress at Butetown Community Centre, in co-operation with Family Service, another UNA-IVS project in Butetown. There were 6 volunteers, from Israel, Germany, France and Czechoslovakia, brought over by IVS and UNA-International Service (now UNA-Exchange). Two volunteers were assigned to each of three families, selected by the Family Welfare Association (now Family Action). Each family had at least 6 children and the mothers were alone in caring for them. The purpose of the camp was not to build anything but to help the mothers to cope. This was the workcamp referred to on the doll!

Thanks to Robert’s excellent record-keeping we learnt that the doll was presented to him, representing UNA/VCS/IVS, on 21st August 1966 at Butetown Community Centre, by a group of 30 Russian Youth Leaders on a visit organized by Eifion Hopwood, of what is now WCVA.

dool.jpg

There was a strong tradition of volunteering in Soviet Russia. Members of the Komsomol, a youth organization controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, often provided free labour or volunteer work, such as helping collective farmers with the harvest.

It was interesting to note in the VCS Chronicle audio recording that there were volunteers from Czechoslovakia at the 1966 Family Service project. At the time, that country was a member of the Soviet Union.

What makes the Russian visit to Cardiff so significant is that this was a time of great tension in international relations. The Cold War had turned into a hot war in Vietnam, with the Russians supporting the Communist North Vietnam and the UK government lending support to the Americans. Opinion in the UK over Vietnam was deeply divided: Prime Minister Harold Wilson had to face a vote in Parliament in 1966 demanding that he stop supporting the USA.

The symbolic value of our ‘matryoshka’ was now plain to see. Against a backdrop of war, intolerance and tension, the work of building international cooperation and understanding had never ceased. Indeed, two young people from the other side of the Iron Curtain had come to Cardiff to volunteer.

Their work, indeed the work of UNA, had been recognised by a visit from a youth delegation also from the other side of the political divide. Thanks to the efforts of UNA and the other stakeholders, the Temple’s message of peace and goodwill had been heard loud and clear and had contibuted to international understanding at such a troubled time.

That will surely be the lasting legacy of our beautiful ‘matryoshka’.

Find out more on People’s Collection Wales:

You can find our ‘matryoshka’ here: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/602309

And a record of ‘All Together – a personal experience of International Voluntary Workcamps’ by Robert Davies here: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/601820

 

An interview with an activist: Hanif Bhamjee

Michael Beya recounts his meeting with Hanif Bhamjee, founder of the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Upon my arrival at the Temple of Peace where the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) is based, I began researching the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Wales.

In the early 1960s people globally were becoming much more aware of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (often shortened to ‘AAM’). By this time apartheid was reaching its peak.

AAM campaigners were grabbing opportunities to abolish apartheid using all means possible, including the involvement of schools, churches, political groups, local communities and sports organisations.

I was interested in what I understood was the Welsh Rugby Union’s (WRU) involvement in the campaign of boycotting all activities related to South Africa and urging South Africa to be banned from international sporting events.

This is how I became aware of a man who was a prominent AAM activist living here in Cardiff – Hanif Bhamjee. I met with Mr Bhamjee and asked him about his role and activities within the movement and also about the WRU’s contribution to the AAM.

What Mr Bhamjee told me contradicted my understanding of what happened.

thumbnail_Michael and Hanef

During our interview he told me about protests he was involved in when rugby teams from South Africa played in Wales.  He said they picketed games, and in some cases smoke-bombed pitches.  He told me that the teams began including 3 or 4 black players, to give what he says was the impression of being multi-racial.  But he said the movement knew that generally these players were going back to South Africa to play in black teams, not the national team.

Mr Bhamjee told me about discussions that took place between the WRU and the AAM, how in 1982 the WRU had decided it would no longer tour South Africa as an international team, but that rugby connections would continue between the two countries for a few years to come.

I spent an hour with Mr Bhamjee, and he didn’t just talk about rugby.  I was impressed by his own experiences in Wales as an anti-apartheid campaigner; experiences that had nothing to do with rugby.

He told me that his early history in South Africa was important.  He had been involved in the movement for a long time, and had met Nelson Mandela and others in the movement when he was 10 years old.

Mr Bhamjee had then moved to Birmingham, UK, and became involved in the AAM there.  He moved to Wales and was surprised that the movement only really existed in Cardiff; there were small groups in Swansea and Newport, but no Welsh organisation.  He said it was painstaking work.

“There was a lot of racism”, and that this was all over the UK.  “There were signs in the windows” he said, saying, “no Blacks…no Irish. Room to let.  But if a black man or an Asian guy went for it, it was suddenly gone.”  He said that he and his colleagues had tested this theory with some white friends.

He told me how the AAM in Wales grew, developing groups in Merthyr, Wrexham and Denbigh.  By about 1989 they had 22 branches in 22 cities and towns.

With this momentum, the movement demonstrated not only about rugby, but started boycotting products, like South African fruit and vegetables.  “You’d be amazed at the kind of stuff that was coming in here” he said, “from tools – like spades – and knives and forks.”

During the interview with Mr Bhamjee it emerged that a rebellious spirit grew in him; he viewed the AAM as something that left him out of the circle; he felt forgotten, which left him very disappointed.

He felt that his efforts, time and dedication that he had offered were left unrewarded. He couldn’t afford to go back to South Africa to find a job in the country of his origin, which he had fought for, for more than half a century.

I was also interested to know how Mr Bhamjee viewed the movement now, as active or passive.  He told me that it was over, and that the movement was almost discontinued.

I asked him about how he felt when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison with his fist in the air, if their expectations were too high?  He told me that when Mandela and others were released from Robben Island they were saying the right things, but that as time went Bhamjee began to have reservations about progress being made.

“When he came out in 1990, him and the leadership – all of whom were released from Robben Island – were all saying the right things, but as time progressed – 1991, 92…96 – you could see a dramatic shift in their views, and people don’t like to hear this…And then he retired early and nobody could understand why.  Some people said it was due to illness, but as soon as he retired the situation got even worse.”

Mr Bhamjee went on to refer to another senior member of the Party and his unhappiness and dissatisfaction with the direction he took.

I went on to ask him – as a key anti-Apartheid campaigner – if he had ever thought of going back to South Africa.  Here’s what he told me:

“I applied for jobs. I applied for jobs in the legal field, the diplomatic field because I was a lawyer…I didn’t get any interviews.  Then there was – years later – they were forming a legal aid board in South Africa so I applied for a job there.  And the woman in charge said you’ll get it because you’ve worked with legal aid firms…she phoned me up a few days before the interview and said sorry, higher authorities have decided we couldn’t shortlist you.…I wanted to go back.”

I asked him: did you feel forgotten, after all you’ve done for the AAM, all the links you had with the ANC (African National Congress, a political party)?  Now you go back home looking for a job, you couldn’t find one.  Were you disappointed?

Mr Bhamjee said “Yes, I was. I was extremely disappointed.  And I still am.”

It was an interesting meeting and interview with Mr Bhamjee. I am happy I met with him, learning about his experiences and thoughts about the AAM, past and present.

These are Mr Bhamjee’s opinions and his perspective on events as he witnessed them.

As I reflected on my time spent with Mr Bhamjee – and how I had my preconceived ideas corrected – I understood that there was much more discussion, research and debate to be held. Perhaps someone reading this will be among those who contribute. Any readers who have ideas or information not discussed here are welcome to contribute to further debate on the AAM.

For more information on the work of Hanif Bhamjee and Action for Southern Africa Cymru (the successor to the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement) click here

For more on the history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in UK, including Wales click here

Yn Cofio Guernika- Remembering Guernika

Mi fydd yn 80 mlynedd ers ymysodiad bomio ar Guernika, pentref yn Gwlad y Basg mis yma.  Dyma erthygl am yr erchyllter a’r cefnogaeth gath Gwlad y Basg gan Gymru yn ystod Rhyfel Cartref Sbaen.

Chwech o luniau gan blant 1937 a’u pensiliau lliw ydyn nhw. Mae glesni yn yr awyr yn un o’r lluniau. Stryd o dai lliwgar mewn un arall. Mewn nifer, mae llun cert llwythog a cheffyl, a chriw o bobl yn gwagio tŷ. Ond yng nghanol y naturioldeb hwnnw, mae lluniau o awyrennau, bomiau, bwledi a chyrff. Doedd y tai na’r siopau – na’r strydoedd hyd yn oed – ddim yn bod ond yng nghof y chwe phlentyn pan aethant ati i dynnu’r lluniau. Ffoaduriaid o Gernika oedd y plant.

Mae’r chwe llun yn rhan o gasgliad Amgueddfa ac Oriel Gwynedd yn eu canolfan newydd, Storiel ym Mangor. Cawsant eu cyflwyno i’r archif yn 1973 gan newyddiadurwr o Farian-glas, Môn – John Williams Hughes – a gafodd ei gynhyrfu gan ymosodiadau’r Ffasgwyr yn Sbaen ar lywodraeth ddemocrataidd y wlad gan achosi Rhyfel Cartref yno. Roedd yn ysgrifennydd Pwyllgor Cymorth i Sbaen Gogledd Cymru a grëodd apêl lwyddiannus gan godi £500 yn gyflym. Defnyddiwyd y gronfa i baratoi ambiwlans, ei chuddliwio â phaent glas, brown a gwyrdd, ei stocio ag offer a thîm meddygol, gosod draig goch ar ei bonet a John ei hun wrth y llyw a’i gyrru i Fadrid. Bu’r newyddiadurwr yno am rai wythnosau yn gwirfoddoli gyda’r Groes Goch yn y brifddinas ac yna yn Valencia.

Cyfrannodd erthyglau i’r wasg yng Nghymru tra oedd yno ac ar ôl dychwelyd. Tra oedd yn Sbaen, cyfarfu â rhai o ffoaduriaid gwlad y Basg. Gwyliodd blant o Gernika yn gwneud lluniau â phensiliau lliw gan ddarlunio’u strydoedd a’r awyrennau yn eu bomio. Roedd y lluniau hyn yn cael eu dosbarthu i hyrwyddo ymwybyddiaeth o’r gyflafan a phan ddychwelodd John WilliamsHughes i Gymru, daeth â chwech o’r lluniau hyn gydag o.

Mae manylion bychain yn y lluniau sy’n frawychus o agos at gofnodion hanesyddol o’r bomio a ddioddefodd Gernika, 26 Ebrill 1937. Roedd hi’n ddiwrnod gwanwynol, clir – doedd y bomwyr ddim yn hedfan os oedd hi’n gymylog neu niwlog bryd hynny. Bomiwyd adeiladau, ond hefyd erlidiai’r awyrennau bobl oedd yn ffoi gan eu saethu gyda’u gynnau peiriant. Wedi’r bomiau trymaf, gollyngwyd bomiau tân nad oedd ond yn gwneud twll bychan mewn to teils ond byddai’r fflamau’n llyncu trawstiau’r adeilad wrth iddynt ffrwydro. Mae mwy nag un to teils yn lluniau’r plant gyda thyllau crwn, melyn ynddynt.

Lladdwyd 1654 ac anafwyd 889 o bobl a phlant yn yr ymosodiad hwnnw ar ddiwrnod marchnad yn Gernika a llosgwyd 90% o adeiladau’r dref. Hwn oedd y dinistr dinesig gwaethaf yn Ewrop ar y pryd, gydag awyrennau Hitler a Mussolini yn cefnogi cyrch Franco yng ngwlad y Basg, gan ymarfer ar gyfer cyrchoedd tebyg ar eu hagenda eu hunain. Er bod ffatrïoedd arfau yn y ddinas, y bobl a’r plant oedd y targedau a rhyfela drwy greu torcalon oedd y nod.

Roedd ymerodraethau’r gorllewin wedi defnyddio’r dacteg hon mewn gwledydd eraill ers pymtheng mlynedd a mwy – ond roedd y rheiny’n ddiogel bell o gyrraedd y wasg a’r cyhoedd. Bomiwyd dinasoedd yn Iran, India, Rwsia, Palestina, yr Aifft, Sudan gan gynnwys gollwng nwy gwenwynig ar y Cwrdiaid, gan awyrennau Prydain 1919-1930. Ceisiodd yr Almaen wahardd bomio o’r awyr yng nghynhadledd Cynghrair y Cenhedloedd yn 1932 (roedd hyn cyn i Hitler ddod i rym) ond roedd Prydain ac America yn gwrthwynebu.

Cododd lleisiau yn erbyn hyn yng Nghymru yn ogystal. Yn 1935, cynhaliwyd ‘Balot Heddwch’ yng ngwledydd Prydain, sef refferendwm yn rhoi cyfle i’r cyhoedd leisio barn ar nifer o faterion yn ymwneud â rhyfela ac arfogi. Bu canfasio dygn yng Nghymru ac aeth 64% o’r etholwyr i fwrw pleidlais – dwywaith y nifer mewn rhannau eraill o’r wladwriaeth. Ar bwynt ‘a ddylid caniatau bomio trefi a dinasoedd o’r awyr’, roedd 90% o etholwyr Cymru yn gwrthwynebu’r math newydd hwn o ryfela.

Dyma gyfnod meddiannu mwy a mwy o dir i’r lluoedd arfog a’r bygythiad i ddod ag Ysgol Fomio i Benyberth, Llŷn. Er bod gwrthwynebiad cenedlaetholgar i’r bygythiad hwnnw, sef amddiffyn daear Cymru rhag cael ei defnyddio gan Swyddfa Ryfel Llundain, roedd protestio yn erbyn yr egwyddor o fomio dinesig. Wrth annerch cyfarfod o gangen sir Gaernarfon o Blaid Genedlaethol Cymru yng Nghaernarfon yn 1936, dywedodd Saunders Lewis: ‘Pennaf nod y bomio fydd dinistrio dinasoedd, eu llosgi a’u gwenwyno, troi gwareiddiad y canrifoedd yn ulw, gollwng i lawr, allan o ddiogelwch yr awyr, yr angau creulonaf ar wragedd a phlant a gwŷr di-arf a diamddiffyn, a sicrhau, os dianc rhai a’u bywydau ganddynt, na bydd nac annedd na bwyd i’w porthi nac aelwyd i’w cadw yn fyw.’

Mae’r anerchiad ‘Brwydr yr Ysgol Fomio’ a gyhoeddwyd ar gyfer cyfarfod croesawu’r Tri o garchar yn pwysleisio mai ymosod yn hytrach nac amddiffyn oedd diben yr Ysgol Fomio. Dyfynnwyd geiriau Baldwin pan oedd yn Brif Weinidog mai dysgu lladd mewn gwaed oer oedd diben yr addysg ynddi. Dysgu sut i ‘ddinistrio dinasoedd, eu llosgi a’u gwenwyno, troi gwareiddiad y canrifoedd yn ulw, gollwng i lawr, allan o ddiogelwch yr awyr yr angau creulonaf ar wragedd a phlant a gwŷr di-arf a di-amddiffyn, a sicrhau, os dianc rhai â’u bywydau ganddynt, na bydd nac annedd na bwyd i’w porthi nac aelwyd i’w cadw’n fyw.’

Tra oedd Tri Penyberth yng ngharchar Wormwood Scrubs am losgi RAF Penrhos y bomiwyd Gernika. Wythnos ar ôl y bomio didrugaredd, cyhoeddwyd llythyr gan Cyril P. Cule, Cymro arall oedd wedi treulio amser yn Sbaen ac wedi bod yn llygad-dyst i ddigwyddiadau cynnar y Rhyfel Cartref. Mae’r pennawd ‘Porth Neigwl a Gernica’ yn clymu’r Ysgol Fomio yn Llŷn wrth y gyflafan yng ngwlad y Basg. Yng ngeiriau’r llythyrwr, mae’n cysylltu ‘fandaliaeth llywodraeth Mr Baldwin yn chwalu un o gysegrleoedd ein cenedl i adeiladu ysgol fomio’ gyda gwaith ‘cyfeillion annwyl Mr Baldwin (Franco, Hitler, Mussolini) yn bomio’r ddinas gysegredig honno gan ladd cannoedd o bobl a saethu’r ffoedigion yn y caeau oddi amgylch . . . ’

Y bobl hynny sy’n cael eu darlunio yn lluniau’r plant a gedwir yn Storiel – yn ystod storm y bomiau a’r fflamau, maent yn ceisio arbed hynny sy’n bosib o’u tai a’u llwytho ar y certi cyn ffoi am y porthladdoedd. Certi pren, olwynion trol a cheffylau ar y strydoedd a’r peiriannau hollalluog diweddaraf yn yr awyr uwch eu pennau.

Eleni, mae’n 80 mlynedd ers dinistr Gernika. Daeth llond bws mini o wlad y Basg i Lŷn ychydig wedi’r Calan eleni. Cawsant eu cyffwrdd ein bod yn cofio hynny a’n bod yn cysylltu Penyberth a’r gyflafan hyd yn oed. Maent wedi arfer cael eu hanwybyddu neu eu herlid. Pan ddaeth 4,000 o blant gwlad y Basg i wledydd Prydain ym Mai 1937, bu rhai yn frwd yn eu croesawu ac yn cynnal cartrefi iddynt, ond aeth eraill ati i sefydlu ‘Basque Children’s Repatriation Committee’ gan honni ei bod hi’n ddiogel iddynt ddychwelyd i’w gwlad eu hunain bellach am fod y sefyllfa yn ‘normal’ yno unwaith eto. Ystyr hynny oedd bod Franco wedi meddiannu’r holl wlad a bod rhai o rieni’r plant mewn carchar ac eraill mewn beddau.

Er mai Tri Penyberth a dderbyniodd gyfrifoldeb am weithred y Tân yn Llŷn, datgelwyd rhyw hanner can mlynedd yn ddiweddarach bod pump arall wedi bod yn eu cynorthwyo ond y cynllun oedd bod tri gŵr amlwg ym mywyd Cymru yn cael eu carcharu a bod y lleill yn parhau gyda’r ymgyrch yn y cyfamser. Wedi imi symud i fyw i Lŷn, clywais fod nawfed aelod o’r tîm. Merch fferm yn Rhydyclafdy oedd hi, wedi bod yn fyfyrwraig yn y brifysgol ym Mangor. Roedd wedi astudio Cymraeg gyda R. Williams Parry yn un o’i darlithwyr, ac erbyn 1936 roedd yn athrawes ifanc ei hun. Ei henw oedd Lydia Roberts, Penrhynydyn. Gan ei bod o Rydyclafdy, dim ond hi fyddai’n gwybod am y llwybr cyfleus drwy’r eithin, ar hyd y gefnen ac i lawr i Benyberth. Hi ddangosodd y llwybr hwnnw i Saunders Lewis pan ymwelodd â’r ardal ddwywaith yn ystod haf 1936 wrth gynllunio’r ymosodiad ar yr Ysgol Fomio. Hi, hefyd, oedd fy athrawes Gymraeg gyntaf – Lydia Hughes oedd ei henw erbyn hynny, yn byw yn Nolgarrog ac yn ein dysgu am y cynganeddion, hen benillion, R. Williams Parry ac enwau lleoedd yn ardal Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy, Llanrwst. Pan glywais am ei chyfraniad i hanes y Tân yn Llŷn, daeth awydd mawr i sgwennu ei stori. Nofel am Lyn a gwlad y Basg ydi Mae’r Lleuad yn Goch a bydd yn cael ei chyhoeddi ar Ddydd Gernika eleni.

Elfen arall yn y nofel yw’r cysylltiad morwrol rhwng Cymru a gwlad y Basg. Cyn 1936, roedd llawer o’r llongau oedd yn masnachu rhwng Prydain a Sbaen yn eiddo i gwmnïau o dde Cymru gan mai glo Cymreig a mwyn haearn o ardal Bilbo, prifddinas y Basgiaid oedd y prif allforion/mewnforion. Llongau ‘tramp’, tua 4,500 tunnell oedd y rhan fwyaf o’r rhain. Ar ddechrau’r Rhyfel Cartref, roedd Franco a’i gynghreiriaid yn ymosod ac yn suddo llongau fel y mynnai o gwmpas arfordir Sbaen er mwyn ceisio ennill rheolaeth ar y môr. Penderfynodd llywodraethau Llundain, Ffrainc a Washington ‘beidio ag ymyrryd’ a thrwy hynny ganiatau i’r ymosodiadau a’r colledion barhau.

Yng ngwanwyn 1937, creodd Franco flocâd ar borthladdoedd gwlad y Basg gyda’r bwriad o dorri ysbryd ei wrthwynebwyr drwy eu llwgu. Ceisiodd rhai o’r ‘llongau tramp’ barhau i fasnachu â’u hen borthladdoedd gan lwytho cargo o fwyd ac anelu am wlad y Basg. Caent eu rhybuddio a’u rhwystro rhag mynd yn agos at ‘arfordir Franco’ gan longau rhyfel Prydain a’u cyfeirio at borthladdoedd cyfagos yn Ffrainc. Yno’r oedd y wasg ryngwladol yn chwilio am stori a daeth rhai o’r capteiniaid yn gymeriadau lled-chwedlonol. Cymry oeddent, fel David John Jones, capten y Marie Llewellyn a roddodd y gorau i’w ymddeoliad yn Abertawe er mwyn cario llwyth o datws i Bilbo Ebrill 15/16, 1937. Gan fod cymaint o’r Cymry’n cario’r cyfenw ‘Jones’, cawsant eu glasenwi yn ôl eu cargo a daeth ‘Captain Potato Jones’, ‘Captain Ham and Eggs Jones’ a ‘Captain Corn Cob Jones’ yn enwau rhyngwladol. Torrwyd blocâd Bilbo yn y diwedd gan y Capten W. H. Roberts o Benarth ac fe’i anrhydeddwyd gyda derbyniad swyddogol gan weinidogion Llywodraeth gwlad y Basg. Mae’r Basgiaid yn dal i gyfeirio’n ddiolchgar at gampau’r ‘Welsh navy’ hyd heddiw.

O ddiddordeb personol i mi oedd bod pedwar llongwr o Lŷn yn cael eu henwi fel aelodau o griw un o’r llongau oedd yn herio blocâd Franco. Cofrestwyd yr African Mariner yn y Barri a bu’n cario ŷd o’r Môr Du i Barcelona.

Drwy gynnwys yr hanes yn y papur bro Llanw Llŷn, cafwyd cysylltiad â nifer o deuluoedd y pedwar morwr a chafwyd eu storiau mewn mwy o fanylder: ‘ Cafodd yr African Mariner ei difrodi yn harbwr Barcelona ar 24 Medi, 1938 pan ollyngwyd bom o un o awyrennau’r Ffasgwyr yn agos ati. Ni chafodd neb ei anafu ar y llong, ond lladdwyd pump ac anafwyd 21 ar y cei yn ystod yr un ymosodiad. Ar 3 Hydref, trawyd y llong yn uniongyrchol gan fom – aeth drwy ddau ddec a ffrwydro yng nghanol y cargo gwenith. Bu’r grawn yn fodd o liniaru effaith y ffrwydriad ac unwaith eto, nid anafwyd neb. Cafodd ddifrod pellach ar 5 Rhagfyr ond ar 22 Ionawr, 1939 cafodd ei bomio’n ddrwg a lladdwyd pedwar morwr o wlad Groeg oedd arni. Roedd cyflwr y llong cynddrwg nes iddi suddo yn yr harbwr drannoeth… Cael a chael oedd hi i’r pedwar o ardal Pwllheli – Tom Williams, Humphrey Roberts, Gwynfor Jones a Robin Williams – i ddianc mewn pryd. Syrthiodd Barcelona i ddwylo lluoedd Franco ar 26 Ionawr ond erbyn hynny roedd y morwyr wedi llwyddo i groesi’r Pyreneau, yna mynd am Marseilles a chael trên yn ôl adref.’

Yn Mae’r Lleuad yn Goch, mae hanes llosgi’r Ysgol Fomio a dinistrio Gernika yn dod ynghyd. Er mai dychmygol yw’r stori, mae’r digwyddiadau’n rhai hanesyddol. Bydd yn cael ei lansio yn Storiel, Bangor a bydd cyfle i weld y lluniau a wnaed gan ffoaduriaid o wlad y Basg bryd hynny hefyd. Weithiau mae angen y cof a’r dychymyg er mwyn dod yn nes at hanes.

 

Ffynonellau

Cule, Cyril P., ‘Porth Neigwl a Guernica’, Llythyrau at y Golygydd, Y Cymro, 8 Mai 1937

Cule, Cyril P., Cymro ar Grwydr, Llandysul, 1941

Coelcerth Rhyddid – Croeso i’r Tri, pamffledyn Plaid Cymru 1937

Heaton, P. M.; Welsh Blackade Runners in the Spanish Civil War, The Starling Press, Casnewydd, 1985

Williams, Dafydd Glyn; Looking Back, Pwllheli (cyhoeddiad preifat), 2013

 

 

A visit to the Holocaust Memorial/ Ymwelaid a chofeb Holocaust

By Nia Evans

Recently I visited Berlin for a weekend. Having spoken to a few friends I was advised that the Holocaust Memorial was a must visit. So on our first full day that’s where we headed, thinking we would spend an hour or so paying our respects  before leaving to explore the city further.

I can’t begin to express how much this memorial touched me, by the time we left it was dusk, having spent the whole day at the site. Time stood still as we were taken on a step by step journey following the stories of families across Germany and Poland.

The memorial is situated between Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, I must admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect as we turned the corner and saw the ‘Field of Stelae’ in front of us. Designed by Peter Eisenman and situated above the subterranean Information Centre, we saw in front of us a vast collection of what is described as concrete slabs (stelae) which have been placed in a form of grid on uneven, sloping ground.

We were able to access the ‘field’ from four sides and walk in-between the around 2,700 concrete structures. The wave like form of the ground in which they stand means that each steale is of different height and from the outside it seemed that the structures were sloping upwards.  In walking between them however, it became obvious that the ground sinks down in the centre, as you walk further into the centre the increasing hue of the concrete blocks creates a feeling of being claustrophobic of suffocating and of isolation. This was incredibly effective.

Having spent time taking in the field of Stelae, we decided to enter the memorial itself, which is situated underground beneath the field.

Starting at the beginning of the exhibition with Hitler’s rise to power we were given an insightful context as to how  Nazism started, progressed and escalated. This included learning about the political and social climate of the time. As we moved forwards in the timeline, there seemed to be an obvious shift from setting the scene to focusing on the stories of the people targeted for persecution. We were guided through a section which included letters written by individuals, some were of hope that things would improve, others, even by children, were that of acceptance of their imminent death. One example that comes to mind is that of a postcard which was thrown out of a train carriage on the way to a death camp, expressing final goodbyes to loved ones, the author clearly knowing what was waiting for them. Someone had found the postcard and had posted it onwards.

We were introduced to families, learning about their lives before the war, and learning about their fate afterwards. This made the whole experience more personal, especially by the fact that the main element of each family section was that of a photo of the whole family together. Usually a large family, which records show were then decimated and the few remaining survivors separated and scattered away from their home to different areas of he world.

By the end, I felt like I couldn’t take any more in: the scale of personal stories, of testimonials, of suffering was almost too much to fully comprehend. One of the last rooms in the exhibition contained a large map of Europe highlighting each location and camp where exterminations took place. There seemed to be no country which wasn’t used to play a part in the persecution of the Jewish community. The organisation and structure in carrying out such horror absolutely astounded me.

As we were making our way to leave, I heard a female voice talking in one of the rooms. We stepped inside and realised that a video was playing of an interview with a woman who had featured in one of the family portraits as a young girl earlier in the memorial. I remembered from having read about the family that she had managed to survive the holocaust, the only member of the close family to do so. The name of this woman was Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski. In just popping into the room to see who was talking, we continued to wait and listen to the interview, five minutes passed, then ten and before we knew it, over an hour had past in hearing about the life of this woman and the writing of her biography Destined to live. It was such a powerful account of her life, it really was capitvating.  Her personal story of survival allowed the journey through the memorial to finish on a thought inspiring note.

In the future, I potentially won’t remember many facts or figures. It is the gut wrenching feeling of the scale and reading personal stories which will stay with me.

Of course, we only learnt about a handful of families and individuals. Some millions of stories will never be heard. This was murder on an industrial scale. I find, still, that the scale of such an attrocity incomprehensible. It all started with one person rising in power. In having attended, I have been left with a much better understanding of what exactly happened to lead to this horror during WW2. In increasing my understanding I have been left with a real determination to work for peace and to ensure that the world that I live in now is a world based on unity, happiness without any form of discrimination.

Es i am benwythnos i Berlin yn ddiweddar. Wrth drafod lle i fynd a pha atyniadau i’w gweld, soniodd sawl ffrind y dylai’r gofeb Holocost fod ar flaen y rhestr. Ar y diwrnod llawn cyntaf felly, dyna lle’r aethon ni, gyda’r bwriad o dreulio tua awr neu ddwy  yn talu teyrnged cyn gadael ac archwilio’r ddinas yn bellach.

Anodd iawn yw esbonio gymaint yr effeithiodd mynychu’r gofeb a’r arddangosfa arnaf i, erbyn gadael roedd hi wedi cychwyn nosi, ar ôl i ni dreulio diwrnod cyfan yno. Arhosodd amser yn ei unfan wrth i ni gael ein cymryd ar daith yn dilyn storiâu teuluoedd wedi eu lleoli ar hyd a lled yr Almaen a Gwlad Pwyl.

Mae’r gofeb ei hun wedi cael ei leoli rhwng gât Branderburg a Potsdamer Platz. Rhaid cyfaddef, doeddwn i ddim yn hollol siwr beth i’w ddisgwyl wrth gerdded at y safle, ond cyn pen dim dyna lle’r oedden ni, gyda’r ‘Field of stelae’ o’n blaenau ni. Maent yn cael eu disgrifio fel casgliad o ‘slabiau concrit’ sydd wedi cael eu gosod mewn grid anwastad. Peter Eisenmen sydd yn gyfrifol am ddylunio’r ardal, sydd wedi ei leoli uwchben y ganolfan wybodaeth danddaearol.

Mae pedwar mynediad i’r safle, un o bob ochr. Roedd modd i ni gerdded o gwmpas a rhwng yr o ddeutu 2,700 o strwythurau concrit. Roedd arddull anwastad y ddaear yn golygu bod pob strwythur yn ymddangos fel eu bod o faint gwahanol. Ar yr edrychiad cyntaf, roedd y ddaear yn ymddangos fel tonnau, fodd bynnag, wrth gerdded rhwng pob strwythur daeth i’r amlwg bod y llawr ar raddiant gyda’r pwynt dyfnaf yn y canol. Wrth gyrraedd at y pwynt hynny doeddwn i methu help a theimlo fel fy mod, bron iawn, yn mygu, o fod yn glawstroffobig ac yn unig.

Ar ôl treulio amser yn crwydro’r ardal yma, gwnaethom benderfynu mynd dan ddaear i’r arddangosfa ei hun.

Dyma gychwyn yr arddangosfa gyda hanes cynnydd pŵer Hitler, rhoddwyd cyd-destun craff ynglŷn â sut y dechreuodd, datblygodd a fwy na dim, sut y gwnaeth Natsïaeth ddwysau. Roedd hyn yn cynnwys dysgu am hinsawdd wleidyddol a chymdeithasol y cyfnod. Wrth symud ar hyd y llinell amser, gwelwyd newid amlwg wrth i’r ffocws symud o osod manylion cefndirol i rannu storiâu am y rheiny oedd yn cael eu herlyn. Mewn un ystafell roedd arddangosfa o lythyrau oedd wedi cael eu hysgrifennu yn ystod y cyfnod, roedd rhai yn negeseuon gobaith, eraill, hyd yn oed gan blant, yn amlwg dderbyn eu ffawd. Mae un enghraifft yn dod i’r meddwl lle’r oedd cerdyn post wedi cael ei daflu o drên oedd yn trafaelio at un o’r gwersylloedd marwolaeth, roedd y neges yn neges oedd yn ffarwelio gyda chyfoedion agos, roedd yr awdures yn amlwg wybod beth oedd o’i blaen. Roedd rhywun wedi dod o hyd i’r cerdyn post ac wedi ei bostio.

Cawsom ein cyflwyno i deuluoedd, gan ddysgu am eu bywydau cyn y rhyfel, a’u ffawd ar ei ôl. O ganlyniad, roedd y profiad cyfan yn un fwy personol, yn enwedig gan fod darlun o bob teulu yn hongian o’r tô. Mae cofnodion yn dangos bod teuluoedd cyfan, ac mi roedden nhw’n deuluoedd mawr, wedi eu chwalu, gyda’r ychydig rai oroesodd wedi cael eu gwahanu a’u gwasgaru ar draws y byd.

Erbyn y diwedd, doeddwn i ddim yn teimlo bod modd i fi weld na chlywed mwy o’r storiâu. Roedd lefel y dioddefaint, y storiâu personol ar tystebau yn ormod bron iawn i’w hamgyffred yn llawn. Yn un o’r ystafelloedd olaf roedd map o Ewrop, roedd y map yn dangos lleoliad pob gwersyll gan gynnwys lleoliad pob distryw. O edrych ar y map, roedd hi’n amlwg bod pob gwlad rhywsut wedi chwarae rhan yn erlyn y gymdeithas Iddewig. Heb os, ges i fy syfrdanu gyda lefel y trefnu a strwythur cyflawni’r  hunllef yma.

Wrth baratoi i adael, clywais lais dynes yn siarad yn un o’r ystafelloedd. Wrth gamu i mewn i’r ystafell, sylweddolais mai fideo oedd yn cael ei chwarae o gyfweliad dynes oedd yn aelod o deulu oedd wedi cael eu portreadu yn gynharach yn yr arddangosfa. Cofiais mai hi oedd yr unig aelod o’i theulu agosaf  oedd wedi goroesi’r holocost. Enw’r ddynes yma oedd Sabina van der Linden-Wolanski. O fod wedi picied i mewn i’r ystafell i fusnesu a gweld pwy oedd yn siarad, gwnaethom benderfynu aros a gwrando am gyfnod, pasiodd pum munud, pasiodd deg munud a chyn pen dim roedd dros awr wedi pasio wrth i ni sefyll yn dysgu am fywyd y ddynes anhygoel yma ac am ei phrofiad yn ysgrifennu ei bywgraffiad ‘Destined to Live’. Dyma gofnod pwerus o fywyd unigolyn  oedd wedi byw trwy gyfnod yr Holocost. O ganlyniad, daeth ein taith yn yr arddangosfa i ben ar nodyn ysbrydoledig.

Yn y dyfodol, mae’n bosibl iawn na fyddai’n cofio llawer o’r ffeithiau neu ffigyrau. Yn sicr, bydd y  teimlad trwm yn fy stumog ac emosiwn dysgu am hunllefau’r cyfnod yn aros gyda fi am gyfnod hir.

Yn naturiol, dim ond dysgu am fywyd llond llaw o deuluoedd ac unigolion y gwnaethom ni yn yr arddangosfa. Mae miliynau o storiâu na fydd byth modd i ni eu clywed. Dyma lofruddiaeth ar lefel anferthol. Hyd heddiw, dwi’n ei chael hi’n anodd dirnad maint yr erchyllterau. A’i gychwyn, gydag un person yn codi i bŵer ac yn defnyddio’r pŵer hynny i ddylanwadu ar y bobl o’i gwmpas. Mae gen i well dealltwriaeth erbyn hyn o’r hyn ddigwyddodd i arwain at yr erchyllterau yn ystod yr ail ryfel byd. O gynyddu ar fy nealltwriaeth dwi’n benderfynol o weithio at heddwch er mwyn sicrhau bod fy myd yn un sydd wedi cael ei seilio ar undod ac o hapusrwydd heb unrhyw fath o wahaniaethu.

 

A week as Caernarfon Poppies Volunteers

img_0101By Megan & Dani

A week of volunteering as a Poppy Ambassadors at Caernarfon Castle was a brilliant choice for us as it appeared to offer a range of opportunities, not only in allowing us to gain experience that will aid us in the world of work, but also facilitated us in completing a part of our gold Duke of Edinburgh award.

Conversing with such a diverse group of volunteers has provided us with a real insight into what the installation evokes within each individual; whether it acts as an artistic muse or as a commemorative exhibition (especially poignant with regards to the centenary of the First World War).

We first read about the poppies’ move to Caernarfon in our local newspaper and this sounded like something both of us would be motivated to get involved with, especially as we are both currently studying A-Level history and are considering taking this to degree level.  We believe that it is important for people of all ages to be involved with history and to remember and reflect upon our past, as well as learn from it – particularly in lieu of recent world events such as the American presidential election and the Syrian refugee crisis.

A highlight of our volunteering has most definitely been a guided tour of the exhibition with a group of blind veterans as The Last Post was played.