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International Holocaust Memorial Day: Hackney honours victims and survivors of genocide around the world

PUBLISHED: 09:39 03 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:07 03 February 2020

Schoolkids and the Speaker of Hackney laying down flowers at the Holocaust Memorial Tree in the Town Hall Square in Mare Street. Picture: Hackney Council

Schoolkids and the Speaker of Hackney laying down flowers at the Holocaust Memorial Tree in the Town Hall Square in Mare Street. Picture: Hackney Council

Gary Manhine

Hackney residents came together on Holocaust Memorial Day to remember and pay tribute to the millions of victims of genocide around the world and to honour all those who have survived the atrocities of war and conflict.

92-year old Harry Olmer lost his mother Chana and oldest sister Golda in the Holocaust. They and many other people he knew and loved were deported on trains and murdered at Belzec extermination camp in 1943. Picture: Hackney Council92-year old Harry Olmer lost his mother Chana and oldest sister Golda in the Holocaust. They and many other people he knew and loved were deported on trains and murdered at Belzec extermination camp in 1943. Picture: Hackney Council

Commemorative events held across the borough marked 75 years since the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.

But a steady rise in reports of hate crime of all kinds over the last few years shows discrimination and prejudice are not only actions of the past. History's harshest lessons must still be taught as a new decade begins and Brexit looms over us.

Ifraah Samatar who helped organise a Dalston street memorial as part of Connecting Communities, led by Shukri Adan, Councillor Humaira Garasia and Aviel Lewis.

She said: "Holocaust Memorial Day is an important reminder of the millions of people who were murdered, or whose lives were changed forever, during the Holocaust and other genocides.

Hackney Students speak tell the story of Gino Bartali, an Italian cycling legend who hid a Jewish family in his Florence home and helped get forged documents to Jewish people during the war. Picture: Hackney CouncilHackney Students speak tell the story of Gino Bartali, an Italian cycling legend who hid a Jewish family in his Florence home and helped get forged documents to Jewish people during the war. Picture: Hackney Council

"Today we also remember Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Cambodia and all of the horrors of history,"

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE told attendees: "We are capable of change and making a difference."

His powerful words were followed by collective reflection and a minute of silence.

Others shared messages of unity on the day and talked about the importance of learning from history as they urged people to stand up to discrimination whenever and wherever they see it.

Pupils from The Olive School and Simon Marks Primary school singing together in honour of the holocaust and genocide victims around the world. Picture: Hackney CouncilPupils from The Olive School and Simon Marks Primary school singing together in honour of the holocaust and genocide victims around the world. Picture: Hackney Council

"We must all rise up collectively to ensure society rids itself of the malign forces which bring about hatred," said Cllr Soraya Adejare of Dalston Ward.

Harry Olmer, 92, is all to familiar with the "malign forces" and spoke on Monday at Hackney Town Hall in a ceremony with the theme "Stand Together".

Harry was sent to Plasnow concentration camp near Krakow and is one of the Windermere children - 300 young holocaust survivors orphaned by the war who rebuilt their lives in the Lake District.

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People of all ages got to hear his readings and personal recollections including many Hackney students who performed in the ceremony.

Caterina Park, principal of The Olive School, said: "We think it's absolutely vital we teach our pupils about the Holocaust.

"It is only by remembering these events that we can make sure that they never happen again."

Students from the Muslim faith-based Olive School and Simon Marks Jewish Primary were some of the schools involved in the event.

Pupils from Simon Marks Jewish Primary singing at the Holocaust Memorial at Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Hackney CouncilPupils from Simon Marks Jewish Primary singing at the Holocaust Memorial at Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Hackney Council

They sang together to pay tribute to victims of genocide.

Harry's story, is made even more moving and poignant in light of the recent attack on a senior Rabbi in Stamford hill in November last year.

Islamaphobic vandalism on a mosque in Lambeth and antisemitic graffiti sprawled across shops, cafés and a synagogue in North London are indicative of a recent rise in hate crime - a rise which may be only partically explained by improvements in crime recording.

Home Office figures show reports have more than doubled since 2013 and spikes can occur after events like terrorist attacks or the EU referendum.

Children and adults stand together at a candlelit vigil to observe a one minute silence. Picture: Aviel LewisChildren and adults stand together at a candlelit vigil to observe a one minute silence. Picture: Aviel Lewis

The ceremony at Hackney Town Hall was followed by the laying of flowers at the Holocaust Memorial Tree in the Town Hall Square, Mare Street. At the Dalston community memorial there was poetry, Yiddish songs and the youngest speaker of the evening, Bilal, read a verse from the Qu'ran.

Councillors and residents concluded the event with a discussion about issues affecting communities today as well as possible solutions.

Holocaust Memorial day brought different generations, communities and people together to reflect on the past in the hopes of forging a better future and a better, safer Hackney.

Ifraah Samatar told the Gazette: "The message from today is very simple: Don't just mark Holocaust Memorial day - listen, learn, connect and start a conversation. Reach out to your neighbours, colleagues and friends affected. Diversity is beautiful and it's an integral part of what makes Hackney a great place to live."

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE speaking at the Dalston memorial. It was meant to happen in the street as it has in previous years but bad weather moved the memorial indoors. Picture: Aviel LewisRabbi Herschel Gluck OBE speaking at the Dalston memorial. It was meant to happen in the street as it has in previous years but bad weather moved the memorial indoors. Picture: Aviel Lewis

The story of the Windemere Children aired on Monday on BB2. Click here to watch the BBC drama.

Hackney's Connecting Communities have various forthcoming events, courses and projects to empower, support and bring the people together. To find out more you can find them on twitter: @connectcomm3 and Instagram: @connectingcommunitiesuk_


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