Holocaust Memorial Day: a moment of unity across the nation

Candle lighting during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westm

Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremonies will be different this year - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Every year, when my children were small (and slightly malleable), they were part of the Alyth synagogue choir, which had the honour of performing at the local Barnet Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.

This gave me endless pleasure as a mother, never mind a Jewish mother, watching my children, hair brushed, uniform tidy and shoes polished, singing for the mayor and the local dignitaries

I knew that my children were learning through listening to the testimonies – giving them some understanding, even as teenagers, of the ongoing dangers of identity-based hatred.

Coming together with people from across the borough helped to lift the darkness as we heard about the atrocities both of the past and of the present. It was always a moment of reflection, absorbing the stories of survivors of the Holocaust, of other genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur and of today’s barbarisms against, most strikingly, the Uyghur and the Rohingya Muslims.

One speaker was Bernd Koschland, who came to Britain in 1939 on the Kindertransport, aged eight. That was the last time Bernd, who now lives in north London, saw his parents, their promise to reunite and to buy him long trousers for his bar mitzvah, never fulfilled.

Bernd was and is a great and positive role-model, as a retired minister and teacher and as a grandpa to six, forever finding light despite his dark past.

Laura Marks OBE, interfaith consultant, The Common Good.

Laura Marks OBE - Credit: Laura Marks

This year there will be precious few places to hear survivors or to come together. But in these exceptional times, the Central London Holocaust Memorial Day event, normally limited to survivors and dignitaries, is open to all at 7pm on January 27. Pre-registration is on the HMDT website hmd.org.uk

Furthermore, given the challenges of coming together, there will be a moment of unity across the nation at 8pm on January 27, with thousands lighting candles in memory of those who have been, or are still, persecuted simply for who they are.

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The days are long past when I could brush my children’s hair or get them to sing. But on January 27, I hope they will light a candle and put it in their front window to reflect, and to be light in the darkness.

  • Laura Marks OBE chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

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