RESIDENTS in Plymouth are being invited to participate in this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.
There will be a special public ceremony at the Peace Garden on Plymouth Hoe from 2pm on Sunday, January 27, 2019, to remember all those who have died in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
The national theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘Torn From Home’ and this year also marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 when around one million people were murdered, so among the speakers at the event will be the Rwandan born Rev Osee Ntavuka.
Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of when in 1945 the notorious death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was finally liberated and the true scale of what became known as the Holocaust, was recognised.
The day, led by the Holocaust Memorial Trust, remembers the six million Jewish men, women and children who died in ghettos, mass-shootings, and concentration camps before any survivors were liberated by allied troops in 1945. Gypsies and Travellers, gay men, lesbians, black people, disabled people, trade unionists and other minority groups were also persecuted by the Nazis.
In Plymouth the event is recognised and organised on behalf of the City Council by the Plymouth Centre for Faiths and Cultural Diversity, supported by Transforming Plymouth Together and the Plymouth Council of Faiths.
Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Tudor Evans OBE, who will open the commemoration, said: “It is so important that we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and learn important lessons from the past, as well as reflect on current world events. Plymouth aims to be a welcoming city and we aspire to be fair and ensure everyone is treated with respect, champion fairness and create opportunities.
“Plymouth has the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the English-speaking world, and the recently listed Jewish cemetery (one of the oldest in the UK) means the Jewish community has deep roots here. That’s why Plymouth City Council has committed to make Holocaust Memorial Day a major civic event.”
Councillor Sally Haydon, Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities, said: “This year on Holocaust Memorial Day we will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and also pause to remember Solly Irving, who came to Plymouth to talk to school pupils about his experiences over many years.”
Solly Irving (pictured) a Jewish Holocaust survivor, is estimated to have spoken to 30,000 Plymouth students about the Holocaust, before he died in 2017.
Irving, a Jewish holocaust survivor from Poland who came to England in 1945 after liberation from Theresinstadt concentration camp, was the only member of his family to survive.
Every year from 2001 to 2016 he was invited to Plymouth and would visit up to 12 schools and colleges each time – it is estimated he spoke to more than 30,000 Plymouth students over the time.
Irving felt it was his duty to speak to young people about his own experiences of war, separation, imprisonment and inhumanity. He died in October 2017. His hope was that our young people would create a better world than the one he had to endure.
Anna Kelly, Honorary Secretary of the Plymouth Jewish community said: “Holocaust Memorial Day serves as the most powerful reminder to the world of the destruction of six million Jewish lives; their communities and ways of life. It is our fervent hope that this suffering will never be repeated or experienced by others across the world. We must work to create a better world.”
Speakers at the event will represent the Jewish community, the Rwandan Community, young people, trade unionists, our LGBT community, people with disabilities, and our Gypsy and Roma community. Candles will also be lit to be placed around the memorial plaque.
A spokesperson for the Holocaust Memorial Trust said: “Holocaust Memorial Day does not ask us simply to remember on a specific day each year. It is about what we do once we have learnt the lessons of the past. When you commemorate HMD in whatever way that is; the challenge to each of us is to let those lessons inform our behaviour, our language and the way in which we treat those who are different to us. HMD asks us to make a difference to the way in which we live our lives now and in the future.”