'We must never be complacent about division' says Sadiq Khan at HMD ceremony

The theme of this year’s ceremony to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘ordinary people’


Jewish community leaders and Holocaust and genocide survivors were joined by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at City Hall for a service to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

The ceremony, which was the first held at City Hall’s new Royal Docks location, included speeches by the Mayor, the Chair of the London Assembly, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock CBE, and a personal testimony shared by Holocaust survivor Joan Salter MBE.

The theme of this year’s commemoration service, was “ordinary people”, which highlighted the fact that it was ordinary citizens most impacted by the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

Speaking on the day, Khan said: “It is incredibly important to remember the Holocaust and other genocides to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated, and it serves as a reminder of the dangers of hatred and intolerance.

“This year’s theme “ordinary people”, encourages us to reflect on the fact that both the perpetrators and victims of this shameful chapter of human history were ordinary citizens, and reinforces our resolve to never become complacent in the face of growing divisions in our society.”

Karen Pollock CBE also paid her respects to survivors, saying: “We are very proud to support City Hall in marking Holocaust Memorial Day 2023. 

“As the number of Holocaust survivors amongst us dwindles, we must seize all opportunities to hear their voices and to remember their testimonies, so that we might learn from the horrors of the past and call our antisemitism and hatred wherever we see it.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust also paid tribute to Zigi Shipper, who passed away last week calling him, in keeping with the Jewish tradition of those who pass on their birthday, righteous.

Marks-Waldman said: “We are forever grateful to those courageous enough to share with others their most painful memories, and those strong enough to relive it every day while retaining their humanity.”

Guest speakers this year included Rwandan genocide survivor Antoinette Mutabazi and Holocaust survivor Joan Salter MBE.

Born in 1940 to Polish Jewish parents, she spoke about the “enduring necessity” to keep history in the collective conscience. 

Ms Salter shared with those in attendance about her own experience as a child survivor, being put into foster care in America, and subsequent finding out her parents survived the war and returning to Europe. 

Ms Salter began talking about her own experiences during the war in the 1980s and has since travelled to seven continents and throughout the UK speaking to schools, universities, and organisations.

She said: “I was an ordinary person whose life was forever impacted by the Holocaust, and while the Holocaust is part of me, it does not define me.

“In between that scared little girl arriving at Croydon airport and today, much has changed, but the task has not. We owe it to future generations to educate.” 

Monday’s ceremony also saw two HET Ambassadors, Simran Shinji and Jasraj Singh, read a statement of commitment to continuing Holocaust education, ensuring “future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences.”

The pair said: “We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocides. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt.”

The El Male Rachamim memorial prayer was read by Rabbi Epstein and Rebbetzin Ileana Epstein of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, with musical performances by Francesca Ter-Berg and Anna Lowenstein on behalf of the Jewish Music Institute. 

The International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust 2023 is on Friday, January 27.

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