More than 200 people gathered at the Warwick War Memorial on Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January with more local schools then ever before marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.
This year’s theme was ‘Ordinary People’. A poem with that title had been jointly composed by ninth-year pupils from King’s High School, and was read by El Liddington and Lulu Jasper. El said, “It is really important that young people know what happened in the Holocaust, and continue to remember”.
A-level students from Aylesford School, Ben Khan and Polly O’Sullivan presented some reflections on the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ project they are studying, which includes a trip to the extermination camp in Poland. Ben described the project as “Incredibly thought-provoking.”
Senior pupils from Myton School read ‘Never Shall I Forget’, a poem by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Noah Saxton from Warwick School read the well-known poem by Pastor Niemoller, ‘First they came’, and younger children had walked from Coten End School and All Saints School to attend the ceremony.
The MP for Warwick and Leamington, Matt Western, read a poem composed in the Terazin Ghetto by Pavel Friedmann, and said afterwards, “It was a privilege to be involved in this important event in the Warwick calendar. From small beginnings in 2001 it has grown over the years thanks to Dave Sternberg and all those involved in the organisation. At a time when there is so much prejudice, hatred and rising intolerance, we must all speak out.”
Prayers were led by Father Patrick Mileham from St. Mary Immaculate Church in Warwick, and there were further readings by Liz Rogers-Mills, representing the Warwick Jewish Community, and the Mayor of Warwick, Cllr. Parminder Singh Birdi, who laid a wreath bearing the message, ‘Thou shall not be a victim, thou shall not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shall not be a bystander’, quoting the scholar Yehuda Bauer, and reflecting this year’s theme, ‘Ordinary People’.
Later in the day, at the Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington, the internationally acclaimed Piatti Quartet performed works by two Czech composers who wrote the music in the Terezin ghetto near Prague before being transported to Auschwitz. At Leamington Art Gallery, the Director of Leamington Music, Richard Phillips, gave a talk about Terezin and its significance to music, while King’s High hosted a talk by Jane Curzon, the daughter of a holocaust survivor.
Organiser Dave Sternberg said, “It is wonderful to see how the Warwick and Leamington communities have come together to commemorate the Holocaust and to remember the other genocides that have happened since 1945, through prayer, poetry, music, art and education. Hopefully lessons will be learned, and we will remember the vital importance of tolerance and kindness in our lives.”