With fighting, hated and discrimination still present in the world, it is vital that we never forget some of the horrors of the past, and keep working to prevent them occurring again.
Holocaust Memorial Day is an annual event (27th January) dedicated to the remembrance of Holocaust victims.
This year, there are three events in Haringey to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.
There is the annual multi faith commemorative gathering, taking place on the 26th January at Bruce Castle Museum.
There will also be an exhibition at libraries across Haringey about the role of the Righteous Muslims in the 2nd World War. The exhibition starts at Highgate Library on Monday 13 January for 2 weeks and then moves to the libraries at Muswell Hill, Alexandra Park, Coombes Croft, St Ann’s and Stroud Green & Harringay.
And on the 4th Feb, Muswell Hill is hosting a one woman performance of Etty – a play about Etty Hillesum before she is first deported to Westerbork and later Auschwitz.
All events are free. For further info about the events and bookings, please see the poster here.
Just got back from the Holocaust Memorial Day. This year’s theme is ‘stand up to hatred’. As ever – there were a number of readings, poems and recollections from dignitaries, those who had firsthand experience and others. Today was very poignant as Jewish people in this country are not having an easy time at the moment. However badly people think Israel has behaved – what was palpable in the air today was how vulnerable they still feel in this country. I don’t know what the recent stats are on anti-Semitic attacks, but that feeling of vulnerability was very much there. And the Jews are not Israel. Believing that would equate with the dreadful discrimination against Muslims as if all of them are synonymous with terrorists.
It is always a shock to see a gas chamber (part of a screen presentation) and in your mind’s eye to imagine the people – and particularly the children – being herded into these filthy, hideous stone rooms – and then instead of water – the gas.
There are many holocausts around the world where one race decides to slaughter another – but I always think that one reason that this holocaust has such resonance is because the perpetrators were so like us, in a nearby country. It’s a reminder that civilisation is only skin deep – and that’s why we remember and must guard against those who do harbour racial hatred deep within but mask that truth until their opportunity knocks. We must never let that happen.
Holocaust Memorial event at Muswell Hill Synagogue with children from Gladesmore School meeting Rudi Openheimer – a Holocaust survivor. I’ve been to many events to listen to a survivor tell their tale over the years. And it never fails to bring home the awful, unbearable truths of man’s inhumanity.
This is a phenomenal tradition – the giving of living histories to our children. And the children listened and I have no doubt they understood in a way that they probably never understood before. For some of them, most, they had never been into a synagogue before.
In the introduction, which I thought very clever, those in the audience were asked to raise their hands if they were Jewish. About ten people raised their hands. They were then asked if they could have told these people were Jews if they had seen them walking down the street. They all shook their hands.
Then it was explained that in a European, civilised country just like England – a group of people (the Nazis) decided that this group would be killed. There was no hot-blooded fighting – only cold blooded systematic extermination.
That is when Rudi Openheimer took up the tale. Well done to Muswell Hill Synagogue and all who helped put this together. It is unforgettable. And on Sunday is Holocaust Memorial Day itself.
Holocaust Memorial Day and Sheila Peacock, one of the local Labour councillors in Haringey has organised the ceremonies this year at Bruce Castle. I may not see eye to eye with Sheila on virtually everything else, but on this she does an excellent job – and full credit to her.
It is such an important occasion – and the symbolism of the Holocaust as a focal point for all the evils that man perpetrates on man pulls us all together as one. You cannot but fail to be moved by listening to a survivor of the Holocaust tell of what is what like actually living through it. It doesn’t matter how many books I have read, films I have seen, newsreels witnessed: listening to someone who lived through the hell of the camps brings it home in a way that no other medium can deliver. And I have never been to a Holocaust ceremony where, in addition to remembering the Holocaust, there was not also a remembrance for all the genocides across the world. Today was no different and we also heard from survivors from Rwanda. Shame on the Muslim Council for refusing to attend these ceremonies.
Evening was off to the Westminster Hour. It’s been a radio fest this weekend. We romp through the troubled Home Office and gay adoption issues – as both of these will come back next week. I raised the issue of the debate on the sale of a radar system to Tanzania – an opposition day debate by the Tories. Nevertheless – hopefully this time the Serious Fraud Office will uncover the truth and be left to do so without Government intervention. The Tories have been oddly silent on the Saudi Arabian arms deal corruption investigation (though the original deal was done by them) – so perhaps their interest in Tanzania is designed to help distracted from the otherwise silent acquiescence at Labour blocking international corruption investigations.
Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in Haringey tonight at Bruce Castle Museum. I give a five minute speech (as do whole series of others) on the theme of what difference once person can make. I mention Schindler, Luther-King and Gandhi – but the real point is that each of us has to take responsibility for stopping any evil, discrimination or unfairness we counter in our own lives.
More important was the witness statement by a holocaust survivor – Eva Schloss. Every time I listen to a survivor tell their tale – I weep. No need to reiterate the particular story she told – all the stories from the holocaust break your heart. What I do know though is the importance of this day of remembrance for that Holocaust – and for all holocausts and genocides. As the stories are told – there is a small space in my life to remember and think about what happened and how that happened.
That is why this year’s theme is so important – because each of us is responsible for what happens in this world. And if we see evil and do nothing – then we are as guilty as those who do the act itself.
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.