MPs urge that Shoah lessons should not be forgotten

January 29, 2009
Gordon Brown signs the Holocaust Educational Trust’s book of commitment, pledging to fight all forms of discrimination

Gordon Brown signs the Holocaust Educational Trust’s book of commitment, pledging to fight all forms of discrimination

Irish President Mary McAleese told the country’s national Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony that “the wickedness and cruelty of the Holocaust lacerate our hearts to this day, as they should. God forbid that any generation will ever know the indulgence of forgetting or ever cease to probe how it all came to be”.

More than 800 people were at the commemoration at Dublin’s Mansion House, among them Irish residents and Holocaust survivors Tomi Reichental, Suzi Diamond, Jan Kaminski and Zoltan Zinn-Collis. Each declared from the podium: “I am here today not because of who I am but because of what I am. I am a survivor of the Holocaust.”

Addressing a 400-plus crowd at Birmingham Town Hall, survivor Mindu Hornick hoped that recounting her experiences would help young people to understand the potential consequences of not standing up to hatred.

The city’s young poet laureate, Megan Bradbury, read her composition, Steven, we’re listening, a response to fellow poet Steven Turner’s work, History repeats itself: It has to — no one listens. Radio presenter Adrian Goldberg compered the ceremony and many of the audience stayed for a free screening of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

An exhibition on the Kindertransport was opened at Bournemouth Central Library by Hermann Hirschberger, past chairman of the Kindertransport Association, in the presence of Bournemouth Mayor Councillor Stephen Chappell.

Mr Hirschberger said the exhibition’s title, The Last Goodbye, was poignantly appropriate as for many of the Kinder, the last time they saw their parents was when they boarded the train.

The mayor told the 50 guests: “I am proud of the excellent relationships in our town with the Jewish community”.

Mr Hirschberger went on to address the Wootton Gardens Synagogue adult education group, recalling childhood experiences in Germany before he left, aged 12, on the Kindertransport.

More than 100 students and academics were at Oxford Chabad to hear Eva Schloss, step-sister of Anne Frank, speak about her life. Having survived Belsen, she was repatriated to Amsterdam and moved to London to train as a photographer. She has become increasingly involved in Holocaust education.

Another speaker was Mendel Tajtelbaum, who told how his father, a survivor from Poland, had dedicated himself to the building of synagogues around the world in response to the destruction of Jewish life. Mrs Schloss also took part in a question-and-answer session after a Holocaust multi-media presentation hosted by Schools and Learners Minister Jim Knight at the Department for Children, Schools and Families on Monday.

Directed by British Muslim Nic Careem and using actors and film footage, And Then They Came For Me by US playwright James Still has been taken to over 200 schools to teach pupils about the Holocaust and broader themes of tolerance. Teachers and pupils from around London were in the audience.

“It’s crucial for society that all young people know how hatred and prejudice prevailed and prevented people from resisting evil,” Mrs Schloss said.

“Through knowledge of what happened then, we are trying to prevent a repetition of such horrors.” Mr Knight confided that visiting Auschwitz last year on a Holocaust Educational Trust trip was “a deeply moving experience —- one that I will never forget”.

Dragons’ Den’s Duncan Bannatyne, Speaker of the Lords Baroness Hayman and former Chancellor Norman Lamont were expected to be among the 450 guests for Thursday’s Anne Frank Trust HMD business lunch at the London Hilton on Park Lane.

Ellie Kendrick — who portrayed Anne Frank in the recent BBC series — was also due at the lunch, addressed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Lunch committee chair Jason Katz was delighted that, despite the credit crunch, “this event has been so well supported. The trust’s work is needed more than ever and clearly many members of our business community agree.”

Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue hosted 180 pupils from local schools for an HMD educational event. They were shown a film about Kristallnacht and heard the experiences of a survivor. The day-long event, organised by Mark Faeber, was formally launched by Hertsmere Mayor Councillor Sandra Parnell and local rabbis also took part.

Several hundred people attended the Lambeth HMD commemoration at Brixton Town Hall on Sunday. In a borough where 140 languages are spoken, Rabbi Menahem Lester of South London Synagogue and student rabbi Janet Darley of South London Liberal Synagogue were among a multifaith group which organised the event. Lambeth Mayor Councillor Angela Meader and Sergeant Andrew Cameron of the Met’s diversity and citizen focus group were among the speakers. Local students read survivor testimonies.

Harrogate Hebrew Congregation combined its Shabbat morning service with an HMD ceremony attended by local Lib-Dem MP Phil Willis and the mayor, Councillor John Fox. The service was conducted by the Rev Gerald Harris and the congregation of over 80 was also addressed by David Kirk from Harrogate Grammar School, who took pupils to Auschwitz last year.

HMD was marked at Bushey’s Immanuel College with sessions led by sixth-formers who recently returned from an eight-day visit to Poland. Nathan Marks, 16, was particularly struck by Majdanek, where “unlike the other camps we visited, everything was intact”. He said: “One of the most frightening images was a huge, mushroom-shaped building that contained the ashes of thousands. It made me consider that our people were almost wiped off the face of the earth. I cannot help but feel stronger and prouder of my identity to see that we’re here in abundance today.”

Speakers at Barnet’s HMD service included Jack Kagan, who escaped a death camp before joining the Bielski brothers’ Jewish resistance fighters. Barnet Mayor Councillor John Marshall said: “This is a very important time for a large number of our borough’s residents, many of whom have relatives or friends who were slaughtered during the Holocaust.

“It is important that we all take the time to think about this year’s theme and how we can apply this to our lives and communities today. We should all pledge ourselves to ensure that messengers of hatred such as the BNP do not succeed in our borough.”

Civic leaders addressed a ceremony at the memorial tree in Kingston organised by Kingston Interfaith Forum. The event moved on to the Guildhall, where a survivor of the Rwandan genocide was among the speakers.

In addition, 550 local pupils will be involved in a three-day educational programme jointly organised by the United and Liberal shuls and backed by council grants.

Servicemen who liberated Holocaust victims at the end of the war were among over 100 people at an HMD service at the United Reform Church in Middlesbrough, where Redcar MP and solicitor general Vera Baird spoke on the national theme of countering hatred. In Newcastle, council leader John Shipley welcomed over 200 people to the Civic Centre, where Rabbi Dovid Lewis was a contributor to the programme.

Hollie Schneider was among year six pupils from Clore Tikva School who took part in the Redbridge ceremony at the Holocaust memorial garden in Valentines Park. She recited a poem she had written from the viewpoint of a child whose parents were sent to a death camp. Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin also spoke at the event, attended by Ilford North MP Lee Scott and Redbridge Mayor Councillor Alan Weinberg.

Before an audience of 200, Merseyside CCJ screened the TV Holocaust drama God On Trial at the Woolton Cinema, where its writer Frank Cottrell Boyce explained that he had spoken to many rabbis and studied the Torah as part of his research. Liverpool’s main event was in the St John’s memorial gardens with Lord Mayor Councillor Steve Rotherham one of the speakers.

Shadow International Development Secretary and Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell laid a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem as an HMD tribute.

    Last updated: 11:55am, February 3 2009