Blitz bombing victims are remembered
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Local imam Ebu Bekir Tezgel and Rabbi Avraham Citron of Walford Road Synagogue
Faded photographs of smiling young Londoners shortly before their lives were cut short are all that remains of victims of one of the capital's worst wartime disasters.
Most were in their prime as they and their children crowded into a public air-raid shelter in a block of flats in Stoke Newington, only to die when a 550-pound bomb scored a direct hit, reducing their refuge to a pile of smoking rubble.
Seventy years later, relatives and friends exchanged pictures of some the 160-plus victims - many of them Jewish - as they were remembered at the unveiling of a plaque on the site of the block in Coronation Avenue.
Some harboured vivid memories of the bombing on October 13, 1940. Rene Broider, now 89, recalled spending several nights in the Coronation Avenue shelter.
But on the night of the attack, she and her husband decided to go to her sister-in-law's house in Clapton.
Returning home the next day, "I just stood and cried. I thought there but for the grace of God… It was a devastating sight."
Images of the destruction had stayed with her and she had been reluctant to attend the commemoration for fear that it might "open up wounds".
Another recounting a fortuitous escape was 90-year-old Eleanor Kennedy, who had tried to gain entry to the shelter but was turned away because it was full. "I consider myself very lucky. Those people never stood a chance," she said.
Israeli doctor Melvyn Brooks came to London for the plaque unveiling by BBC broadcaster and local resident George Alagiah. Dr Brooks had lost an aunt in the bombing. "She was only 30. I pray that nothing like that will ever happen again.
"It is for the present generation to remember but my generation is not in a position to forgive," he said. For him, the ceremony had been "a kind of partial closure".
Dr Brooks recited kaddish during the ceremony, which featured readings by schoolchildren and addresses by Jewish, Christian and Muslim ministers.
Prayers were also said for the victims on Shabbat at Walford Road Synagogue. Project Manager Camilla Loewe said the plaque unveiling was only part of the remembrance. The next stage would be to gather information and funds for a book about the disaster.
"We discovered that after all these years, there are still a lot of people with a personal connection to the event who have unanswered questions. To our surprise, our campaign has been able to ease the burden for some," she added.