British communities remember the Holocaust

January 28, 2010
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Commitment to actions to prevent another Shoah was the focal point of Sunday’s Leeds HMD commemoration, held at the town hall and attended by 300 people.

A drama inspired by artwork by children in the Theresienstadt camp was performed by young members of the Carriageworks theatre group. Survivor Iby Knill read her poem, I Was There, and other speakers included the Lord Mayor, Councillor Judith Elliott.

Leeds emissary Gilad Amit said the event was a powerful statement of unity. “I appreciated the fact that five out of seven speakers weren’t Jews. It emphasises that the Holocaust is not only Jewish history. All nations should learn about it — and from it.”

Also on Sunday, 250 people joined the Newcastle ceremony at the Journal Tyne Theatre, where the keynote speaker was Czech-born Zdenka Fantlova, who survived a number of camps before her liberation from Bergen-Belsen. The only survivor from her immediate family, she recalled lying naked on a pile of corpses when a British soldier saw her move and dragged her out. She had never managed to trace her saviour but had never forgotten him.

Councillor Jackie Slesenger, head of the local HMD working group, said survivors’ achievements were an example of resilience and hope to future generations.

Middlesbrough held its memorial service on the last Sunday in Januaryat the United Reform Church. Local dignitaries to attend included Sir Stuart Bell MP, mayors and many councillors. The main speakers were the Archdeacon of Cleveland and Joe Gellert who lost 36 relations in the Shoah.

Prayers were recited by a representative of the British Legion and David Simon who also lit the candle of remembrance.

Other events in the north-east included workshops at Consett Community Sports College, a Holocaust-related film season at the Tyneside Cinema and a vigil at Durham Cathedral.

Today 130 pupils from four Newcastle primary schools will mark HMD through performances and art displays at the Discovery Museum. They will also meet Ms Fantlova, who will talk to them about her experiences in the camps and how her talks to young people in Germany have been received.

Among Brighton commemorations were story-telling and craft activities at the Jubilee Children’s Library and an Ajex service conducted by Rabbi Hershel Rader at the memorial to victims in Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation’s Meadow View. Local residents lit “candles of hope” at the Friends’ Meeting House.

MPs, MEPs and Lord Mayor Councillor Michael Wilkes were among a close-on 700 crowd at Birmingham’s HMD programme, held at the town hall and addressed by Auschwitz survivor Mindu Hornick. Sheffield held its commemoration at the Winter Gardens with key participants including Steve Mendelsson, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport.

Survivor Freddie Knoller addressed an event at the Centre for German Jewish Studies at Sussex University and the Worthing community held an HMD meeting at the Connaught Theatre, followed by a screening of the film, Paper Clips, at the adjoining Ritz Cinema. Rabbi Ariel Friedlander led a service for Eastbourne Council of Christians and Jews.

In Portsmouth, Rabbi David Katanka, Tony Cooper and Alan Berman conducted the commemoration outside the D-Day Museum in Southsea, where guests included Lord Mayor Councillor Terry Hall. Mr Cooper pointed out that the Shoah dead were not killed for anything they had done, but simply because they were different.

Southend’s HMD programme featured a tree planting in Blenheim Park, Leigh-on-Sea, and a service in the council chambers. Belsen and Auschwitz survivor and Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation member Leslie Kleinman delivered the main address.

Highlights of Bournemouth’s HMD contribution were a “shared experience” event for people from different faith and ethnic traditions and an event at the Queen’s Hotel with young graduates of the Lessons from Auschwitz programme.

Southport Ajex joined forces with Sefton borough for a memorial service attended by over 150 people, including Lord Fearn and Southport MP Dr John Pugh. As well as rabbis Arnold Saunders and Douglas Charing, local vicar Reverend Stuart Reid was among the officiants. Two students from King George V College reflected on a visit to Auschwitz and Southport Ajex chairman Jack Gardie lit a memorial candle.

Those present received a commemorative brochure featuring poetry and paintings by local schoolchildren. They also signed a condolence book at a subsequent town hall reception.

The Kensington-Fairfield area in Liverpool held a week of remembrance activities, also covering other genocides and human tragedies. There were photo exhibits on Auschwitz and survivors of the Congolese conflict and the first performance of a song about one of the area’s most controversial Jewish residents, Dr Samuel Solomon. This was written and performed by Albert Hastings, one of the few remaining Jews in Kensington-Fairfield.

Additionally on Merseyside, the Harold House Community Centre held an exhibition of stories of Dachau inmates and Eve Rosenhaft of Liverpool University spoke at the centre on how German Jews responded to the rise of Nazism. Local members of the Association of Jewish Refugees displayed a memorial book featuring documents and photos which is being made available as a special resource to schools.

Lord Mayor Councillor Mike Storey said: “It is vital that we never forget this dark time in world history. Liverpool people of all faiths and communities are uniting as one to remember the victims of the Holocaust”.

There was a turnout of around 100 for a special Shabbat service at Harrogate Hebrew Congregation, where survivor and congregant Arek Hirsh spoke, along with Harrogate MP Phil Willis. Many other faiths were represented at the service.

Around 80 people attended the University of Leicester to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. Highlights of the evening included a lecture by Professor Aubrey Newman on the "Legacy of Hope plus presentations by several secondary school students and their teachers about their visits to Auschwitz. Additionally, a DVD was shown entitled "Wasted Lives" describing the Holocaust and other genocides.

Guests included the Lord Mayor of Leicester, the High Sheriff, the High Bailiff and several other civic dignitaries and members of the Council of Faiths. The event was jointly sponsored by Leicester City Council, the Council of Faiths, the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies and the Schools Development Support Agency.

Robert Posner of the Anne Frank Trust addressed an audience of over 150 at the council chambers in Reading at a commemoration staged by the local council for racial equality. Reading Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Zvi Solomons was among the clergy and the shul’s Joshua Oehley was one of the children involved in a candle lighting ceremony.

And the travelling Anne Frank exhibition returned to the town but in a different venue — the Broad Street Mall, with shul members among the volunteer guides. Reading MP Martin Salter attended the opening.

Anne Frank Trust director Gillian Walnes was in Oxford to speak at a Keble College chapel service featuring the Jewish community’s ‘OxfordShir’ choir. Penny Faust led an HMD gathering organised by the city and county council and Oxford students went on a remembrance walk.

On Tuesday, an exhibition on Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust opened at the Guildhall in Cambridge. The following day, the city council’s HMD event focused on the story of Jozef Marionuk and his family, who hid a group of Jews in their farmhouse in rural Poland. In addition, Cambridge Arts Picturehouse screened The Power of Good, an Emmy-winning documentary about Sir Nicholas Winton, who is known as the British Schindler for his rescuing efforts. And Lord Janner compered an event for the Cambridge Union Society with Denis Avey, the British PoW who helped an Auschwitz inmate survive, and Holocaust educator Dr James Smith.

In King’s Lynn, a turnout of over 70 for HMD included borough Mayor Councillor Michael Pitcher. A service featured readings from Jewish, Christian and Muslim representatives and music from a Catholic school choir. Councillor Pitcher laid a wreath at the tree of remembrance.

Cheltenham’s two communities — the Hebrew congregation and the newly-formed Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community — were involved in a service at the town hall. Children from the GLJC’s religion school took part in a candle-lighting ceremony.

Bristol-based online Jewish-Muslim station Salaam Shalom premiered a rap song with a global message for HMD. “We commissioned the song as a reminder that we have the power within us all to turn the page, to move on from tragedy into a more positive place,” said station manager Kyle Hannan.

Bath marked the day with a special showing of the Shoah-related Kate Winslet film, The Reader, and an exhibition at the Guildhall titled Never Again? Thinking about the Holocaust. Harlow also organised screenings of relevant movies, such as The Diary of Anne Frank, as well as a memorial service at the civic centre organised by the local Jewish community and Council of Christians and Jews.

Harlow Council chairman Edna Stevens, said HMD provided “an opportunity for all the diverse strands of our communities to come together and remember the past and commit to creating a better future”.

Rabbi Aron Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre visited Wales to introduce the first UK screening of Against the Tide, a documentary narrated by Dustin Hoffman about a young activist who challenged Washington and the American Jewish establishment to demand that the rescue of European Jews became a top priority.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones was among the guests at the screening, hosted by Vale of Glamorgan Council. It was an honour for Wales to stage the UK premiere, he said. Such films were “a powerful and stark reminder of the horror and destruction discrimination against others can bring”.

The Medway Holocaust Memorial Day event was led entirely by young people. Representatives from Chatham Memorial Synagogue, Medway Interfaith, Rochester Cathedral and the Medway Council, had approached Medway Youth Parliament for assistance in organising the "Legacy of Hope" event.

The youngsters arranged for local primary and secondary schools to compose a stage show of songs, dance and readings. The El Mole Rachamim was sung by Jon Weiner, chairman of Chatham Memorial Synagogue. Dignitaries to attend included the Mayor and Mayoress of Medway.

Local Jewish residents Dr. John Clark and Dr. Jeannette Fine attended an HMD event at Norfolk County Hall in Norwich and performed some readings.

They were invited by the county hall chaplain, Rev. Christine Copley, to a lunchtime service for county employees.

There were 36 people there including the chief executive and the Chairman of the County Council. The chaplain did some readings, Dr Fine sang and read the Shema, and Dr Clark did a reading from Elie Wiesel and read the kaddish and an Imam gave a supportive sermon.

At the lunch afterwards in the chairman’s office, they were shown some documents by a Kindertransport survivor, who had managed to track down what happened to his parents.

Dr Clark was shown a three page typed document, in German, which was the summons to his mother to present herself for transport to Theresienstadt.

Dr. Clark said, ”I did not get a chance to ask how he came into possession of the document, but by goodness it made my blood run cold. Not the least chilling aspect of it was that the Nazis had the chutzpah to label the document as being from the Office of Jewish Culture (rough translation).”

Members of the Association of Jewish Refugees gathered at Belsize Square Synagogue. Dr James Smith, co-founder of the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, spoke on the day’s theme, “The Legacy of Hope”.

As part of the service, AJR members lit six memorial candles to remember the lives of the six million Jewish people murdered by the Nazis. Rabbi Rodney Mariner led the service and recited kaddish.

AJR chairman Andrew Kaufman said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to honour the memory of loved ones who perished in the Holocaust and to reach out and inform people about the experiences of the Holocaust refugees and survivors who rebuilt their lives in Great Britain.

"The Legacy of Hope encourages us all to consider what we can do to build an inclusive society for the future free from prejudice, intolerance and discrimination.”

Last updated: 12:16pm, February 8 2010