For the past five years, we’ve had the privilege of supporting the Bournemouth and Poole Holocaust Memorial Day Committee. Every January, we help to spread awareness for their annual commemoration which brings hundreds of people together from across Bournemouth and Poole.
This year I attended a particularly moving ceremony at the Life Centre in Bournemouth. Arriving on a Sunday afternoon, it was great to see so many people, both young and old, gather together in an act of remembrance. Once we had collectively taken our seats, Lynda Ford-Horne one of the organisers of the event, began the afternoon’s proceedings. She explained the purpose of the event and what it means to people living today.
Lynda explained that it is 72 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Throughout the Second World War, seven million people perished in ghettos, mass-shootings, concentration camps and extermination camps. Despite these horrendous crimes, millions have since died in genocides around the world, committed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The aim of Holocaust Memorial Day, therefore, is to keep the memories of these awful events alive. It also serves as a personal reminder of our responsibility to stop these atrocities from ever again being repeated.
As the commemorations unfolded seven candles were lit to symbolise all those who were killed in the Holocaust. Smaller candles were then lit by young people in memory of the bewildered, frightened and orphaned children who are often left in the wake of genocide.
Bringing together individuals from various faiths, Rabbi Morris Michaels and Reverend Dr Ian Terry, gave memorial prayers at the beginning of the service. We then heard several presentations from members of the Gay and Romani communities. This included an emotional speech from Betty Billington who spoke about the Romany victims of the Holocaust. David Warden also talked about the life of Josef Kohout an Austrian concentration camp survivor in a speech entitled The Pink Triangle: Gay Victims of the Holocaust.
Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich 86, then delivered a harrowing tale of survival. Mala was one of 60,000 prisoners freed from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by soldiers of the British 11th Armoured Division in the closing stages of the Second World War. As the years go by and the Holocaust gradually fades from living memory, it was truly an honour to hear about her experiences.
Remembering the Holocaust is vitally important and to support this community event every year is something that I always find very rewarding. We will in the future continue to provide our assistance to the event organisers and I look forward to attending next year’s commemorations.