COUNCILLOR KAM ADAMS, Speaker of Hackney, introduced Hackney Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) ceremony on January 27 by emphasising the need for people to stand together, to stand up and be counted.
“HMD is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own. It is a steady process that can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented.”
He went on: “On Holocaust Memorial Day millions around the globe remember those affected by genocide. The date is when Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest concentration camp, was liberated from the Nazis back in 1945 on January 27.
The Nazis killed six million Jews, but some studies suggest the true death toll could be much higher. However, Holocaust Memorial Day is about remembering the Holocaust during the Second World War and remembering all genocides that have taken place and praying for an end to racial violence.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust says – ‘The Holocaust and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations allowed insidious persecution to take root. Whilst some actively supported state policies of persecution, the vast majority stood by silently – at best afraid to speak out; at worst, indifferent,
bystanders enabled the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides.’
We are privileged indeed to be hearing from Mr Olmer, a Holocaust survivor. Throughout today’s event, we will focus on the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust. We will be encouraged to reflect on our own actions and responsibilities, both as individuals and as a society.
Each year, Holocaust Memorial Day has a different theme, decided on by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. The theme for 2020 is ‘Standing Together’, enabling the exploration of a wide range of issues.
In the years prior to the Holocaust and in each subsequent genocide, governing regimes actively developed policies and propaganda that separated people, causing certain groups to be treated as ‘the other’.
Despite the introduction of these policies, examples can be found of inspiring individuals who assisted, rescued or showed solidarity with those who were being persecuted in their communities and countries.
One of the ways people survive persecution and genocide is by living in hiding. This is not something they can do alone. Brave people have to offer places to hide, lie to protect them and provide ongoing assistance such as food and medicine – often at great danger to themselves.
In every genocide, there have been opponents and resisters who fought back against persecution and stood together with the targeted group.
A Candle was lit by Cllr Kam Adams, Speaker of Hackney, at the Hackney Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, in remembrance of those who have suffered and lost their lives during the Holocaust and other genocides. The candle echoes the ‘yahrzeit’ or anniversary candle (Yiddish: יאָרצײַט yortsayt ) used to mark grievance and mourning at various events in the Jewish calendar.
One of the most powerful ways to challenge an oppressive regime is to speak out publicly against its actions, challenging a hostile culture.
Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity each year for people around the UK, and the world, to stand together with those in their local community, learning about those affected by genocide and pledging to take action for the future.
In order to combat hate in our communities, individuals have a crucial role to play in changing what is seen as acceptable language and behaviour. These changes are made through actions.
By remembering the people murdered during the Holocaust and subsequent genocide, we take steps to ensure that this does not happen again. Today we stand together by learning and sharing their stories.”
Survivor Harry (Chaim) Olmer, aged 92, spoke at the Hackney Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, of enduring the concentration camps as a child, having most of his family murdered by the Nazis because they were Jewish, describing the horrific & inhuman conditions of the camps.. See https://www.het.org.uk/survivors-harry-olmer
Pupils from Simon Marks Jewish Primary School and from The Olive School Hackney (Muslim faith school) sang together at the Hackney Holocaust Memorial Day at Hackney Town Hall today. A testimony that it is possble to get together from across the faith divide, a message Hackney has for the rest of the world!
“Live the dream of your highest calling.
Be the hope of a new day dawning.
We’re the ones who can make a diff’rence.
Let’s stand together.
Share your gifts with a world that’s waiting,
For a change that we’re all creating.
It’s the moment for our greatness.
Let’s stand together now.