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by Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

‘Many war memorials commemorate people who have died’ said Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, when he spoke at City Hall in London during the recent 2012 Holocaust Memorial Day event, hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. What is different about the monument in the Bulgarian town of Plovdiv, Rabbi Levy observed, is that it is dedicated to those that ‘Did Live!’.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, City Hall, Anita Lasker-Wallfish calls for individuals to 'Speak up, Speak out'.

On 10th March 1943 the Jewish residents of Plovdiv were to be deported to the Nazi death camps, but an official from the Greek Orthodox hierarchy protested.  Lo and behold, deportation was cancelled and the people were told to go home.  In 1998 a marble pillar was raised to remember this event and sited on the very spot from which deportation had been scheduled.  Tragedy was averted because someone did ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’. It was this call to action that formed the theme of this year’s event.

A few of those who were spared, now in their eighties and nineties, are still living in Plovdiv in a retirement home. The keynote speaker, 84 year old Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was arrested by the Nazis after it was discovered she was forging documents for prisoners of war. 

She was taken to Auschwitz and in all likelihood would have been killed, but her life was spared because she was an accomplished cellist and the camp orchestra needed one. To this day, she cannot imagine how it was that she survived.  Subsequently transported from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen, she felt her life was ebbing away until miraculously, just in time, the camp was liberated by the British Army. She made the point that ‘Genocides arise when despots seek land or power. The victims had neither.’

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch said that sometimes TV viewers are warned about sights they might prefer not to watch.  Her contention was ‘Don’t look away.  You should know what is happening in war zones even now in the 21st Century.’ Later, Anita’s grandson Abraham gave a short cello recital which echoed his family’s musical virtuosity.

Testimonies were given by young people who had visited Auschwitz, sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  They would never forget the experience which opened their eyes to the evils of anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, which regrettably are still prevalent in today’s society linked to hatred and discrimination.

Plovdiv Monument of Gratitude, 2012

Boris Johnson, addressing the gathering, said ‘This event is our chance to remember lives lost, as well as the remarkable resilience of survivors and everyone affected by one of the darkest periods in human history’.

 The Plovdiv memorial is named Monument of Gratitude and the dedicatory inscription in Hebrew is: To the memory of the man who assisted in the saving of the Jews of Plovdiv on 10th March 1943. The English inscription reads: To all who helped to save us on 10th March 1943, from the grateful Jewish community of Plovdiv.

This article was submitted by UKNIWM volunteer Irene Glausiusz, Chair of the ‘Memorial to Evacuation’ Steering Committee. 

 

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a moving act of remembrance took place on the last Tuesday in January under a cloudless sky beside Southwark Council’s Holocaust Memorial tree in the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park outside the Imperial War Museum. The service was conducted by Rev Alan Greenbat representing the Chief Rabbi’s office and the Rt. Rev. Christopher Chessun Anglican Bishop of Woolwich. The assembled crowd was invited to join in the singing of the 23rd Psalm – forever a source of comfort and solace. Never forgetting all the millions who perished during World War Two, Alan Greenbat quoted a poignant translation of a Hebrew biblical passage “How pleasant it would be if brothers could live together in harmony” (Psalm 133).

 

Everyone then moved to the nearby Soviet War Memorial where His Excellency Yury Fedotov Ambassador of the Russian Federation recalled how his parents had been military personnel.  He too, and now the 3rd generation, his grandchildren, were growing up in another age of conflict.

 

On the theme of the 2009 rallying cry of Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Stand Up to Hatred’ the Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Eliza Mann said ‘While we remember those who died in the European Holocaust, we should also think that each day people stereotype, exclude and persecute because of race, religion, disability or sexuality’ and added ‘acts of hatred involve making a choice, but we can choose to resist racism.’

 

Simon Hughes MP for North Southwark wished that leaders whether nationally or locally – that is all those in power – never abuse their power.  A local issue was youth violence in his constituency – recently a fight led to the stabbing of a 14 year old, just because he came from another school.

 

Mayor of Southwark, Eliza Mann at the Soviet War Memorial (image courtesy of londonse1 community website)

Mayor of Southwark, Eliza Mann at the Soviet War Memorial

(image courtesy of London SE1 community website)

 

Wreaths were laid at the Soviet War Memorial by Embassies and Defence Attaches of Commonwealth of Independent State countries, UK military organisations, Royal British Legion and veterans of the Arctic Convoys.  Amongst other organisations laying wreaths were Russian cultural societies, the Marx Memorial Library and the Evacuees’ Reunion Association, whose wreath bore the inscription “REMEMBERING THE CHILDREN OF WORLD WAR TWO”.

 

Philip Matthews, Chair of the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund, in closing the ceremony added a reminder that the next event at the Soviet War Memorial would be Victory Day marking the 10th Anniversary of the installation of the Soviet War Memorial in the park beside the Imperial War Museum.

 

 

BBC News has some photographs of events that were held over the weekend to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Click to see images from BBC News

Not surprisingly, many of the events used memorials as their focus and others created new memorials, such as a Scout group that planted a memorial tree near Lewes, Sussex.  Holocaust survivors played a prominent role at several events, recounting their own experiences.  Read more about the day from BBC News

Click to read our original post about Holocaust Memorial day and Holocaust memorials.

The ceremonial burning down of the last hut at Belsen after the liberation of the camp in 1945This coming Sunday is Holocaust Memorial Day.  Its aim is to commemorate not only those killed in the Holocaust and as a result of Nazi persecution, but those who have died in more recent genocides such as Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. 

It seeks to educate people about the Holocaust and highlight the continuing dangers of racism, anti-semitism and all forms of discrimination.  Holocaust Memorial Day takes place annually on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.

There are many events taking place to mark the day – click here to see events in your area

There are a number of memorials in the UK that commemorate the Holocaust.  These include a memorial garden in Hyde Park, London.  Click to see UKNWIM record.

The inscription (in English and Hebrew) reads,

“For thee I weep
streams of tears flow
from my eyes
because of the destruction
of my people
lamentations

Another memorial in Harrow, London, takes a quotation from the diary of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis with her family for two years before eventually being discovered and sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to change the world”

This week is Refugee Week and we will be highlighting some war memorials that commemorate refugees.

The first is the Kindertransport memorial, unveiled in 2006 outside Liverpool Street Station, London.  The memorial consists of a group of five lifesize bronze statues of children.  They are depicted standing at the end of a railway line with their luggage.

The inscription reads as follows,

Children of the Kindertransport/ In gratitude to the people of Britain, for saving the lives/ of 10,000 unaccompanied mainly Jewish children/ who fled from Nazi persecution 1938 and 1939/ ‘Whosever rescues a single soul is credited/ as though they had saved the whole world’/ Talmud/ Dedicated by/ Association of Jewish Refugees/ Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief/ 2006