27th January is known as Holocaust Memorial Day. It commemorates the day that Auschwitz was liberated and provides an opportunity to remember all those who were persecuted by Hitler, the Nazi regime and its allies.
I attended the Holocaust Memorial Day event Northampton Guildhall on 28th January where members of the community came together to remember those fallen and to celebrate all that is diverse about Northampton.
The evening consisted of readings from members of the community as well as entertainment from local schools Vernon Terrace Primary and Abbeyfield Secondary. The two performances were very different with Vernon Terrace displaying beautiful bright songs which showcased some of the cultures represented in the school where some 42 different languages are spoken. Now that’s multicultural at its best!
Abbeyfield put in some amazing yet devastating and hard hitting performances to represent experiences of those affected by genocide during World War Two and since.
I can’t really do the performances justice by describing what I saw but two of the most poignant moments for me were:
1. watching as one of the Abbeyfield teachers read a letter from a mother to her 2 year old daughter, hours before she had to give her away to avoid her child’s death through life in the ghetto or concentration camps. The woman knew that she was never going to see her daughter again and writes of her hope that her daughter will one day read the letter and know that the sacrifice was made from the love that she and her husband feel for their daughter.
One of the students then read a piece from the grown up daughter who did get to read the letter and has shared her story so that people know the true horror and sacrifice that was made during Hitler’s rise to power and the Nazi regime.
Needless to say, I was swallowing back the tears but there was more to come as a ceremony took place.
2. A candle was lit and members of the audience lay stones around it whilst students from Abbeyfield read that they hoped that someone would remember that there once existed someone by the name of… and spoke names of children murdered during the holocaust, along with their ages.
The laying of stones at graves is a Jewish custom to mark that you have visited and that respect the person who has passed. If you’ve seen Schindler’s list, you’ll know what I mean.
I’m not ashamed to say that I cry for those who have experienced the worst of human nature whether they continue to live or not. I don’t know if everyone has a similar experience when they hear/think/read/see about genocide, war, human rights infringements, pain and suffering but it hurts me.
I know that it’s necessary to have a certain level of self preservation or we’d be a bunch of wrecks but in a way I’m glad that these things get to me. It shows that I’m compassionate and I hope that it means that I will never stand by and let such evil happen as we’ve seen happen throughout human history. So we have to be aware of what horrible things happen so that we can stop them.
Hope in the younger generations
Young people tend to get a bad press. They’re often portrayed as rude, lacking consideration and even abusive. Thankfully after the emotion of the Memorial event (I had a severe adrenaline/emotion headache. You know right across the forehead when you’ve been holding back the tears for too long?) there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I spoke with members of the Northampton Youth Forum who give a voice to young people in the county. Charlie, Emily, Nat, Lerris and Monica chatted with me about their role in the evening’s event (which included helping younger children to give a reading and then light candles- very sweet) and why it’s so important for people of all generations to know the facts of the holocaust and genocide. It was great to meet people who were so aware and interested in their community.
You can hear hear some of our chat below.
Did you commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and do you think that it’s still important to educate children and young people about the holocaust?