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 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.