Holocaust memorial ceremony unites care home and Dutch school

A ceremony on Holocaust Memorial Day saw residents at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, unite with a school in the...

A ceremony on Holocaust Memorial Day saw residents at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, unite with a school in the Netherlands - Credit: Kingsley Healthcare

A poignant ceremony remembering victims of the Holocaust brought together a Norfolk care home and a school in the Netherlands. 

Residents at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, worked with pupils at Caston and Thompson primary schools to make 'stumbling stones', laid in Holland every year to commemorate Jewish families killed by the Nazis.

Stumbling stones were laid during a poignant Holocaust memorial ceremony at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton

Stumbling stones were laid during a poignant Holocaust memorial ceremony at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton - Credit: Kingsley Healthcare

The stones were unveiled on Holocaust Memorial Day and will form a permanent memorial at the Kingsley Healthcare home.

The idea was initially inspired by teacher Lorraine Mead, who works at an international school in The Hague and has a strong interest in the Second World War courtesy of her grandparents' wartime experiences.

After Mrs Mead reached out last year to find surviving veterans in the UK, Thorp House's wellbeing coordinator, Marcia Hughes, introduced her to resident and Normandy veteran, John Lister. 

Thorp House resident John Lister spoke to Dutch schoolchildren about his Second World War experiences last year

Thorp House resident John Lister spoke to Dutch schoolchildren about his Second World War experiences last year - Credit: Kingsley Healthcare


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Mrs Mead was eager to share the 101-year-old's wartime story with her students, and he subsequently spoke to them via video call.

Mr Lister sadly died just after Christmas, but not before an idea for a new project was born. 

“Lorraine told us how commemorative stumbling stones, or ‘strekelstenen’, are laid to mark the place Jewish families lived, and that inspired our idea," said Mrs Hughes. 

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“Although John passed away after Christmas, we decided to press ahead with the ceremony which was a tribute to him too. We planted a Christmas tree in his memory."

A ceremony on Holocaust Memorial Day saw residents at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, unite with a school in the...

A ceremony on Holocaust Memorial Day saw residents at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, unite with a school in the Netherlands - Credit: Kingsley Healthcare

The ceremony saw Mrs Mead join via FaceTime and speak to residents Neil Cordell, 85, and former Women's Land Army recruit Beryl Prothero, 95.

Mr Cordell recalled his childhood memory of seeing a neighbour’s house bombed in Lincoln and watching a German plane flying near the cathedral.

Linda May, a teacher at Thompson Primary, added: “The children have forged strong connections with Thorp House.

Stumbling stones were laid during a poignant Holocaust memorial ceremony at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton

Stumbling stones were laid during a poignant Holocaust memorial ceremony at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton - Credit: Kingsley Healthcare

"They have previously enjoyed listening to first-hand experiences of the residents who fought and lived through the wars.

​"We can’t wait to be allowed to come back. The children gain so much from their visits."

There was an outpouring of support for Mr Lister in December after he spoke publicly about the challenges of living in isolation and losing his wife, Ella, to coronavirus.

He received hundreds of gifts and more than 18,000 cards from across the globe. 

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