Sto­ries of sor­row and hope as UK re­mem­bers


BEN HELF­GOTT had a mes­sage for the 3,000 peo­ple at the UK’s main Yom Hashoah event at Bar­net Copthall Sta­dium on Sun­day.

“We, the sur­vivors, can­not carry on for­ever,” the 87-year-old said. “But look­ing out and see­ing so many of you here with us, we are pass­ing on the ba­ton of re­mem­brance to you with hope and con­fi­dence.”

On the event’s theme of “women’s re­sis­tance”, Game of Thrones ac­tress Laura Pradel­ska spoke mov­ingly about the ex­pe­ri­ences of her two grand­moth­ers, Es­ther and Clara.

Clara was orig­i­nally sent to the Nowy Sacz ghetto and later trans­ported to Auschwitz Birke­nau. The Nazis killed her par­ents, sib­lings, hus­band and eight-month-old son. She re­mar­ried a fel­low sur­vivor.

Be­cause of her blonde hair, blue eyes and abil­ity to speak Pol­ish with­out a Yid­dish ac­cent, Es­ther ob­tained forged tran­sit pa­pers. She man­aged to save her two young nieces, Naomi and Eva, adopt­ing them after the war.

“Be­cause of Es­ther’s in­tu­itive­ness, wis­dom and, above all, brav­ery, I am so lucky to have my in­cred­i­ble aunts to­day,” Ms Pradel­ska said.

She also paid trib­ute to her mother Minka, who was among the au­di­ence.

“My par­ents told me from early child­hood where I’d come from and what my fam­ily had been through.

“To­day, in the face of an­ti­semitism, racism and ter­ror­ism, I so strongly be­lieve that we must tell th­ese sto­ries for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

Yom Hashoah com­mem­o­ra­tion has grown in the UK in re­cent years.

“I re­mem­ber we used to gather at the small Holo­caust me­mo­rial in Hyde Park,” said Karen Pol­lock, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tional Trust.

“But as the sur­vivors got older, it [the cer­e­mony] got moved to a room — it was los­ing its con­nec­tion with the Jewish com­mu­nity. A num­ber of peo­ple de­cided it needed to be re­vived.”

Now thou­sands across the UK gather to re­mem­ber and hon­our Shoah vic­tims and more than 130 com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions are reg­is­tered part­ners, among them the United Sy­n­a­gogue, Ma­sorti, Re­form and Lib­eral Ju­daism.

Sadiq Khan and Lord Howard were among po­lit­i­cal fig­ures at the Bar­net cer­e­mony. Last year’s Yom Hashoah event was Mr Khan’s first public en­gage­ment as Lon­don Mayor and he told the crowd he was “hon­oured to be in­vited to join you once again”.

Is­raeli am­bas­sador Mark Regev de­scribed his “im­mensely per­sonal” con­nec­tion to Yom Hashoah, talk­ing about his late fa­ther, born in Ger­many in 1931.

“In the liv­ing room of my child­hood home, there was a pic­ture of my fa­ther with his Jewish class­mates in 1938 on a school out­ing,” he said.

“Of those 30 smil­ing chil­dren pic­tured, only four sur­vived. One was my fa­ther, an­other was my uncle.”

Sur­rounded by 150 school­child­ren, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis de­clared that there was hope “so long as our chil­dren will de­clare ‘never again’.”

In Is­rael, Yom Hashoah is the of­fi­cial day of Holo­caust re­mem­brance. In the UK, Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day is ob­served on Jan­uary 27.

But the chief ex­ec­u­tives of Yom Hashoah UK and the Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day Trust (HMDT) stress ed that the me­mo­ri­als are com­ple­men­tary.

“On Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day the Jewish com­mu­nity helps the rest of so­ci­ety un­der­stand what hap­pened and make sure it never hap­pens again,” said

Neil Martin of Yom Hashoah UK.

“But on Yom Hashoah, the Jewish com­mu­nity comes to­gether to mourn in­ter­nally and to ed­u­cate its own young peo­ple for the fu­ture. Two very vi­tal days with two sep­a­rate pur­poses”.

His HMDT coun­ter­part Olivia Mark­sWold­man agreed that “HMD is pre­dom­i­nantly for the non-Jewish world to un­der­stand the im­pact the Holo­caust had and its sig­nif­i­cance for ev­ery­body, no mat­ter their back­ground, faith, or age. Yom Hashoah is for the Jewish peo­ple to mourn our dead.”

The small Holo­caust mon­u­ment in Hyde Park is set to be su­per­seded by a new me­mo­rial next to the Houses of Par­lia­ment, with 10 designs cur­rently un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

For sur­vivors, it seems lo­ca­tion out­weighs de­sign in im­por­tance.

“I might like one [de­sign], he might like an­other,” said Zigi Ship­per, ges­tur­ing to a fel­low sur­vivor, Janek Gold­berger.

“Which­ever one will lead, we will be happy.”

“There are thou­sands of peo­ple a day walk­ing around there [West­min­ster],” Mr Gold­berger said. “What is so im­por­tant to me is that it is a prom­i­nent place — you can­not ig­nore it.”


Laura Pradel­ska ad­dress­ing the 3,00o crowd at Bar­net Copthall Sta­dium

Ben Helf­gott with Sadiq Khan

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