Remarks by Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, at CCJ’s Holocaust Memorial Day reception in the House of Lords, Monday 20 January 2020
Friends, I’d like to begin with a quote:
“It is easier to be prejudiced towards a nameless group and to ‘other’ people you don’t know. It’s less easy to hate someone or something you do understand. People in Byker have learned this for themselves. One resident commented ‘I will never call names or be racist to my neighbours again.”
That short reflection was from just one participant at the Byker community centre, Newcastle, which marked Holocaust Memorial Day last year, supported by Newcastle City Council. The impact of taking part in Holocaust Memorial Day was not only felt in individuals’ attitudes and empathy towards others, but additionally, following the series of events, a programme was set up for children in refugee camps in Turkey.
Holocaust Memorial Day has a powerful impact on those who attend and take part in activities. We learn more about the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and more recent genocides. We increase our empathy and understanding of others. And we take action to make life safer and better.
Across the UK, thousands of events are taking place in diverse settings, reaching people of all ages and backgrounds.
Hundreds of these are led by faith or interfaith groups.
St George’s Church, Southwark – the Christian congregation has brought together several groups for their HMD activity: members of the local mosque, probation service, mental health service users, local refugee group.
Across north and west London, more than a dozen synagogues, of different denominations, are linked in a programme that brings thousands of pupils from mainstream schools to the synagogues for workshops on HMD.
Many Church of England schools and Catholic schools, undertake study programmes and activities to mark HMD.
These activities are supported by a wealth of resources – including the wonderful liturgical resources, developed by CCJ, that enable congregations across the UK to mark the day thoughtfully with meaningful prayers and liturgy
And this year, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, there will be a special edition of Songs of Praise, anchored at the National Holocaust Centre, built in Newark by the Christian Smith family.
This year, we reflect on the theme: Stand Together. In the run-up to the Holocaust, and in each subsequent genocide, perpetrators took deliberate steps to stop their designated victims living, studying and working alongside their neighbours. Communities were stopped from being together.
Today, we know that prejudice and hostility based on faith or identity is still prevalent – indeed, in some cases is even on the increase. We need to show solidarity to others.
I am giving you all a challenge today: to leave today’s wonderful event determined to something that enables you to understand more about people from a different background, or that shows solidarity with others.
Or you could take part in the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust HMD 2020 project, to stand together with others to remember individuals who were murdered by the Nazis.
Please go to our website and click to be given the name of an individual, murdered for simply being Jewish, or gay, or disabled, or Roma. Honour their memory, and share this on your social media platforms to encourage others to join too.
This simple action will take you less than one minute, but is extremely meaningful.
The Nazis attempted to completely destroy entire groups of people – stripping them of their identity. Today, we can all take one simple action to remember them as unique individuals, who had hopes, family and friends.
I am standing together with others to honour the memory of Anna Lehnkering, murdered by the Nazis because she was disabled. Her experiences were unknown until her niece investigated the circumstances of her disappearance from the family, and said:
‘Who, if not us, would be the most appropriate to give you back your identity and name, and therefore some of your dignity?’
Please: include the CCJ Prayer in your congregation, use the recommended resources, contribute to our remembrance of those who were murdered, and give back names and dignity to those who were murdered.