Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day was kept in Cornwall with a moving ceremony in Truro Cathedral. 

We had a special guest – a lady called Renata Collins. She was on one of the last Kinder Transport trains to leave Prague in 1939 before the Nazi army arrived – the trains that have featured in the recent film One Life telling the story of Sir Nicholas Winton. When we came to the candle lighting one of them was lit by Renata’s son Paul.

The first candle was lit by Maia, the wife of Jeremy Jacobson who is the Chair of Kehillat Kernow, to remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. 

Also remembered were the other groups who perished in the gas chambers. These included Homosexuals, Romany, Trade Unionists and Jehovah Witnesses as well as political opponents of the regime.

But it was not just the victims of the Holocaust of the Nazi regime that were remembered. Also commemorated were those who have died in recent Genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.

Among those who spoke was Dean Simon who recalled the pain of women he met on a visit to Srebrenica in Yugoslavia who had husbands and sons killed by Serbian troops.

The most moving moment came when Jeremy invited Naeem Ahmad, who is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Cornwall, to light a candle with him. A real sign of hope in the darkness and tragedy of the current conflict in Israel Palestine. 

There was one more important Cornish connection. Cynthia lives in East Cornwall and her mother, called Blanka, was a Holocaust Survivor having been taken to a concentration camp from a Jewish ghetto in Poland. Remarkably she survived. The theme of HMD this year is The Fragility of Freedom. Students from Falmouth University produced a film telling the frightening and hard journey that Blanka made following the liberation of her camp until she finally settled in a free United Kingdom.

I left the Cathedral as Renata was talking to a group of local school pupils. What a privilege for them to hear at first hand the testimony of someone who lost their entire family in the Holocaust. One hopes that encounter will fire them up to want to be peace makers and freedom builders in their adult lives. 

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