Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that Holocaust Memorial Day is “more important than ever” in light of the surge in antisemitic attacks in the capital since October 7.
The mayor was speaking after hosting Jewish community leaders, Holocaust survivors and survivors of other genocides at a service of commemoration at City Hall on Monday.
Khan said: “The Holocaust is one of the most harrowing events in history, and it’s vital that we continue to hold events like this to ensure we never forget those who were killed and never forget where prejudice, racism and hatred can lead if allowed to fester unchecked and unchallenged.
“This feels more important than ever as we confront the depressing reality that antisemitism is on the rise once again, here and around the world.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan addresses the City Hall Holocaust Memorial Day service (Photo: Greater London Authority)
He said that in his role of mayor, he would “continue to ensure we take a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism and hatred in our city and work to unite our communities”.
In the two-week period after the October 7 terrorist attacks, which saw around 1,200 people in southern Israel murdered by Hamas and over 240 kidnapped to Gaza, the Met Police reported a 1,353 per cent increase in antisemitic attacks in the capital compared to the same period the previous year.
Holocaust Memorial Day, which is on January 27, also marks the 30th anniversary of the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda, when more than a million Tutsis were murdered in 100 days by Hutu extremists.
Holocaust survivor Janine Webber BEM shared her experience of having to flee Poland with her family after the Nazi invasion, and Safet Vukalic BEM talked about living through the Bosnian genocide.
Survivor of the Bosnian genocide Safet Vukalic BEM and Holocaust survivor Janine Webber BEM light a candle at the City Hall Holocaust Memorial Day service
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which collaborated with City Hall on the service, said: “In an era marked by growing susceptibilities to divisions and biases, it was an honour to listen to the narratives of Janine Webber and Safet Vukalic.
"Their testimonies, set against the backdrop of our theme for Holocaust Memorial Day this year — ‘The Fragility of Freedom’ — are a stark reminder that freedom is not a given but something we must actively cherish and protect.”
Karen Pollock CBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, who helped organise the service, said afterwards: “Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration provides London with the opportunity to pause and remember the six million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators and honour those who survived.”
She said that the day was also an occasion to “remind ourselves that anti-Jewish racism did not begin nor end with the Holocaust”.
(l-r) Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE, Chair of the London Assembly AndrewBoff AM, Janine Webber BEM, Mayor Sadiq Khan, Safet Vukalic BEM,Karen Pollock CBE (Photo: Greater London Assembly)
The El Male Rachamim memorial prayer was read by Rabbi Epstein and Rebbetzin Ilana Epstein of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, and cantor Rachel Weston and accordionist Josh Middleton provided music on behalf of the Jewish Music Institute.