Leeds Town Hall was an apposite venue for the city’s major HMD commemoration, the building having suffered significant damage to its roof and walls in a Luftwaffe bombing raid in 1941.
Chris Butler, chief executive of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, was the keynote speaker, recalling his journey to Auschwitz with the Leeds-based Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association last year.
He wondered how the human spirit could become so depraved, so murderous, so monstrous —“how could human beings have come to this,” he said.
Candles were lit by Rebecca Black and Julia Kinch, granddaughters of Shoah survivors Eugene Black and Iby Knill.
After his liberation from Bergen-Belsen in April 1945, Eugene Black had said: “It was only when I walked out of the camp gates that I broke down and wept. I realised I was 17-years-old in a foreign land. I had lost my country, my home and my family. I was an orphan. And all because I was born a Jew.”
The duo pass on their grandfathers’ stories in schools, colleges and universities through an HSFA project to train a new generation of Shoah speakers.
Ms Black, 26, felt the testimonies resonated powerfully with young people.
“It has been an emotional journey, learning my grandfather’s story and journeying to some of the places of his past,” she said afterwards.
“We need to educate the current generation about the Shoah so this will never happen again.”
Youngsters from three Leeds theatre groups performed Millions of Kisses, a play based on letters sent by a
Jewish mother in Berlin to her daughter in Britain, starting in early 1939 and ending abruptly in 1942.
The correspondence was discovered in a shoebox by Leeds UHC member Barry Anysz after the death of his mother in 2003.