I go into the London Assembly chamber for our Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, organised and staged by the Chair of the Assembly, Brian Coleman.
A gay male voice choir opened the ceremony with a beautiful haunting song. Then Brian said a few, very well chosen words. But then we heard from Trudi, a Holocaust survivor. Her story moved me to tears. She told of her inhumane experiences on the Death March and then her experience when she finally came to England. A policeman went up to her on arrival to ask where she was going and she told him. He then advised her how to get there, where to get a taxi and to negotiate with the driver for a pre-fixed price as he didn’t want her to pay over the odds. She said it was the first time in her life that someone in uniform meant her no harm – and even was trying to help her.
She was followed by a rabbi, with some very moving words, and then a beautiful song in Hebrew. There is something very haunting about this music.
We then heard from the Rwandan Ambassador. In a very quiet and thoughtful way she extended our thinking to other genocides – and finally a poem from Ken. Ken was in tears too. We then lined up to sign the book of commitment.
That’s why it is so important to remember. That’s why children need educating as to man’s inhumanity to man. That’s why we need the annual commemoration of the Holocaust to remain a memory of the worst we know in ‘civilised’ society.
I have never been under any illusion that civilisation as we know it here is still only skin deep. It only takes a mix of poverty and a political move to use immigrants as the scapegoat for the horrors to rise again. I still believe though, in this country, there are enough right-minded people to stop it happening – but I was underwhelmed by Michael Howard’s use of words like ‘millions who want to come here’ in the Tories’ desperate attempts to win favour. Yes – we have to have a working system and stem illegal immigration – but when the Tories use those sorts of words I know who they are calling to.