Rishi Sunak led this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day events on Wednesday with a moving meeting with centenarian Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert and her great-grandson Dov Forman at Downing Street, lasting about half an hour.
“It was incredibly moving and very special,” Forman told the JC. “The prime minister showed he really cared about her testimony. He looked really touched, especially when she pulled up her sleeve and showed him her number, A-10572, a permanent reminder of the Nazis crimes againt humanity. It was so special to have such intimate time with him in Number 10.”
Forman used the opportunity to raise concerns about the weekly anti-Israel marches, the fate of the hostages and the rise in antisemitism. “The prime minister really understood how terrible it has been since October 7 for Jews around the world,” he said.
Events this year were given the theme of the “Fragility of Freedom” and dedicated to Holocaust survivor and former Olympian, Sir Ben Helfgott MBE, who died in June. Both elements were key parts of this year’s main commemoration event at the Guildhall in central London on Wednesday.
Addressing the audience of several hundred people, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove said: “Today is a powerful reminder of the fragility of freedom and also of human progress, and the need for vigilance to preserve the values we cherish.
“Around the world, we face an alarming rise in Holocaust denial and antisemitism, and increasing hatred against other minorities that must not be allowed to run unchecked. When the freedom to choose how we live, work, worship, and love is being challenged, we should work together to protect it.
“On this Holocaust Day in Darfur, Sudan, rival militia factions are still carrying out the ‘ethnic cleansing’ and mass killing of civilians. And the killing rage of contemporary antisemites threatens the Jewish people today in their ancient home.
“Antisemitism is the oldest hatred, going back thousands of years. It is all the more urgent that we face down distortions and denials about past atrocities, work together to prevent future attacks, and never take our fragile freedoms for granted.”
Kitoko Bibarwa performing in Guildhall tonight at Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s annual event, this year taking the theme of “Fragility of Freedom”. In attendance was Michael Gove, Angela Rayner, Lindsay Hoyle, Jonathan Pryce, genocide survivors, Chief Rabbi Mirvis and others pic.twitter.com/VzMFnhCvm8— Daniel Ben-David (@DannyBenDavid) January 24, 2024
Appearing by video link, the prime minister said: “Today, we meet against the backdrop of the most abhorrent, sickening antisemitism on our streets, here in this country, in this century. So it is fitting that this year’s theme is the fragility of freedom… We must be far bolder and more assertive in defending our liberal values.”
Survivors of the Holocaust, and the Rwandan, Darfur and Bosnia genocides, January 24, 2024 (Credit: Sam Churchill/the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)
The event also featured a speech from Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Angela Rayner. Holocaust survivors Mala Tribich MBE, Ivor Perl BEM, and Vera Schaufeld MBE spoke on life before the Holocaust and on losing the freedoms they enjoyed in their childhood.