Last Thursday I was invited to a Commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in the constituency and my researcher Catharine attended on my behalf because I was at Westminster on Parliamentary duties. There is a commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) organised by the Hertfordshire branch of the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) every year and this year the event was held at Edwinstree Middle School in Buntingford. The event was extremely well attended and there were various local dignitaries at the event including a survivor of the Kindertransport Sir Eric Reich. The theme for this year’s memorial day was “Journeys” and a collection of schools from the Hertfordshire area gathered last night to perform a variety of pieces based on this and the theme of holocaust.
Each of the acts were imaginatively put together some incorporating music and dance to convey their powerful message. Their performances which reflected on the Jewish holocaust and also other genocides including those in Darfur, the Congo, Cambodia and Rwanda too, were immaculately put together and professionally delivered. The audience was repeatedly reminded of the dreadful loss of life caused during these atrocities and importance of never allowing such events to occur again.
During the course of the evening Sir Eric Reich also gave a fascinating account of his experiences being evacuated at the tender age of four with his two brothers on the Kindertransport (children transport) to come to England just before the start of the Second World War. He talked about his re-acclimatisation to life in England where he was sent to live with a non Jewish family in Dorking, Surrey and his teenage years when he subsequently moved to London to live at a Jewish school in London. Strikingly Sir Eric was very positive about his experiences despite losing his two parents in the Holocaust and being relocated to a foreign country at such a young age. During his adult life Sir Eric has gone on to raise enormous amounts of money for charity and his testimony was a poignant reminder of what, despite the odds, one person can achieve should they want to. Interestingly he revealed that one of the children in the monument outside London’s Liverpool Street Station which was erected as a tribute to the Kindertransport, is supposed to be him.
Towards the end of the programme there was a lighting of memorial candles by Councillor Alan Plancey and a moment’s silence to remember the deceased and all those affected by racism, discrimination and persecution across the World. This was followed later by a statement of commitment by all to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of genocide together with a condemnation of the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism.
The evening was a powerful reminder of the terrible loss of life in mass genocides and the need for community cohesion to avoid such acts in the future. Thursday was very special and the various performances by the school pupils taking part were excellent.