Council political leaders united as they mark Holocaust Memorial Day
27th January 2021
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, an international day of remembrance which takes place every year on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides. To mark the occasion, Cllr Keith Martin, Chairman of Three Rivers District Council, and political leaders representing all parties on the council, describe what Holocaust Memorial Day means to them.
Cllr Keith Martin, Chairman, Three Rivers District Council
I was 13-years-old when the television documentary series World at War was first broadcast. What began as something I saw for no better reason than my parents watched it soon became engrossing and disturbing. The 13-year-old me had one question; why? Being born 15 years after the Second World War ended it was not my lived experience. My parents? Yes, but not me. Towards the end of the series, one programme focused on the Holocaust. I had heard of the Holocaust, but knew little about it. The images seen in that programme and the narrative of the speakers were horrific, shocking and beyond my understanding. Nothing I had seen had been so awful. Getting on for five decades later I still cannot comprehend, nor will I ever, how something so horrific could have been perpetrated by one set of people on another.
The passage of time will inevitably mean that survivors and other witnesses to the Holocaust will no longer be here to bear witness in person. Humanity must not forget, however, hence the vital importance of Holocaust Memorial Day. For me the day ensures that the world remembers, pays respect to the millions of lives lost and the unbearable suffering of their surviving relatives.
Last year I was honoured to be one of the Three Rivers councillors who marked Holocaust Memorial Day with the raising of a flag. Covid-19 means that we cannot gather together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in person this year. As reflected in this article, however, the leaders of all political groups within Three Rivers very much wanted to mark this occasion and to do so on behalf of all councillors and staff at Three Rivers.
Cllr Sarah Nelmes, Leader, Three Rivers District Council
It is now over three-quarters of a century since the end of the Second World War. As the war in Europe drew to its conclusion the world became aware of the evil that we know today as the Holocaust.
We are all familiar with the saying that "if we do not learn from history then history will repeat itself". For me Holocaust Memorial Day both serves to recall and mourn the great suffering of the Holocaust, but also to remind us in the most forceful way that we must never see its like again. I will think of all of the victims. Yes, those millions who were murdered and their families who survived this wicked crime. I will also remember those victims born after the Second World War ended: family members who grew up without grandparents, uncles and aunts. Then there are the victims who are yet to be born. They too will have to live with the knowledge that members of their family were the victims of atrocities that took place many years ago.
In both my personal capacity and as Leader of Three Rivers District Council, I shall be marking Holocaust Memorial Day with a solemn heart and a hope that the world will never see such a crime again.
Cllr Stephen Cox, Labour Group Leader
Holocaust Memorial Day, which came into existence in 2001, provides an opportunity to stop, reflect and focus upon the horrors and lasting legacy of genocide, of which obviously the most infamous example occurred in Nazi Germany, but there have been more recent examples too.
Treating another as a lesser being than you, as history shows, is a slippery slope of gargantuan proportions. We’re all human beings no matter our race, colour, religion, sexuality, politics or if we have physical or mental disability.
Intolerance breeds intolerance. Whipping up hysteria and mistrust is wrong. It undermines democracy where it exists and creates a climate of anger, fear and loathing. It must be avoided. We have seen a very potent example over recent months where people have been egged into a frenzy and fed a pack of lies, resulting in them being unable to determine right from wrong and fact from fiction. No good can come of such behaviour.
So as we reflect, let us take solace that good will always trump evil, but remind ourselves too that evil and intolerance of others must never be allowed to flourish. We must never remain silent, or stand idly by in the face of oppression and injustice.
Cllr Alex Hayward, Conservative Group Leader
For many British people, our understanding of the Holocaust is through the stories of survivors, refugees or children who arrived on the ‘Kindertransport’, and who then rebuilt their lives in the UK. As the number of survivors sadly diminishes with time, Holocaust Memorial Day is a day when we remember the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust as a whole. Most importantly, it allows us to continue to confront the immense human calamity caused by the destruction of Europe’s Jewish communities and to demonstrate our sincere commitment to mourn, remember and to act.
Cllr Alex Michaels, Independent Group Joint Leader
Holocaust Memorial Day will remind me of my grandparents, who came to this country between 1933 and 1936, all ethnic German Jews from Duren, Magdeburg, Berlin and Danzig (now in modern day Poland) respectively. Whilst all their individual circumstances were different, they all sought refuge in the UK and their stories are still very much relevant today. I will remember the memories of all the victims of the war, the six million Jews and millions of mentally and physically ill, Roma, LBGTQ+, communists, intellectuals and many, many more whom were innocent victims to Nazi death camps. I will also remember the many sacrifices people made, from people travelling from all over the world to fight and defeat the Nazis, to resistance fighters who gave their life never knowing the war would be won.