Today, 27 January 2015, is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland.
This year’s theme is Keep The Memory Alive.
Here, during World War 2, over 1 million Jews and people of other minority groups were murdered as part of Hitler’s ‘final solution’. 6 milllion Jews died over all.
People gathered in the Memeorial Gardens on the corner of Palmers Avenue and High View Avenue in Grays to spend an hour remembering not only the victims of the Holocaust but also other genocides throughout recent history.
The hour-long ceremony was led by Rev Darren Barlow of Grays Parish Church with contributions from representatives of Thurrock Faith Matters. These included thoughts and prayers from the Muslim, Seikh, Hindu, Christian and Jewish communities of Thurrock.
Also contributing were the Mayor of Thurrock, Cllr Steve Liddiard; the Communities Portfolio Holder, Cllr Richard Speight; and the Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Rob Gledhill.
Everyone joined in reading the Statement of Commitment (see below). This was followed by the laying of pebbles around the memorial. Hilton Ellis of the Jewish community inroduced this by explaining the symbolism of the pebbles. Hebrew shepherds used to carry with them a pebble for each sheep; if a sheep was lost, the pebble that represented that sheep was put aside until it was recovered. The tradition of laying pebbles on graves in a Jewish cemetary lasts until today, symbolising the losing of a sheep until the day of re-gathering.
There was a moving few minutes as Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending was played on the tannoy, followed by the singing of the National Anthem.
For a fuller report, see http://www.thurrock.gov.uk/news/diversity-and-equality/vandals-fail-to-ruin-holocaust-service
Statement of Commitment
- we recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning
- we believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation’s collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us, and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice
- we must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides
- we value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil
- we recognise that humanity is still scarred by the belief that race, religion, disability or sexuality make some people’s lives worth less than others’. Genocide, anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still continue. We have a shared responsibility to fight these evils
- we pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocides. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt
- we will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual UK Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, respectful, and democratic society
For more information, visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website http://hmd.org.uk/
Prayer for Yom HaShoah read out by Rev John Guest
Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will.
But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us.
Remember rather the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this.
And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have bourne be their forgiveness.