Each year Ealing Council hosts a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust and other genocides, as well as to commit us to never allow history to repeat itself. I was pleased to be able to speak at this year’s ceremony at William Perkin High School, and to talk to the young people from primary schools across the Borough about the impact our own words and actions can have, when taken together, in guarding against prejudice and hate.
“Ealing Council’s annual service to mark Holocaust Memorial Day will this year be held at William Perkin High School.
On Friday, 25 January the mayor of Ealing, Councillor Tejinder Singh Dhami, will be joined at the school in Greenford by Councillor Peter Mason, cabinet member for housing, planning and transformation; the Reverend Dean Ayres, associate rector of Acton; along with the school’s pupils and local dignitaries.
The service will focus on the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2019, Torn from home. When ‘home’ should be a place of comfort, safety and security, the speeches and prayers will reflect on how the enforced loss of a safe place to call ‘home’ is part of the trauma faced by anyone experiencing persecution and genocide.
Ernest Simon, a Kindertransport survivor, is the invited guest speaker and students of William Perkin High will read Holocaust pledges. During the prayers, stones will be laid at the altar by students and the congregation will also be invited to lay stones.
Within the Jewish faith, it is customary to leave a small stone on the grave, placing the stone with the left hand. Placing a stone on the grave serves as a sign to others that someone has visited the grave. It also enables visitors to partake in the mitzvah tradition of commemorating the burial and the deceased. Stones are fitting symbols of the lasting presence of the deceased’s life and memory.
Victims of the Nazi Holocaust of the 1940s as well as all the other victims of persecution, genocide and torture around the world, including those in Armenia, Assyria, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Darfur will be remembered. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, which began in April 1994 and the 40th anniversary of the end of the genocide in Cambodia, which ended in 1979.
‘An opportunity for reflection’
Councillor Mason said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity for reflection and to remember the horrors of genocide, and the immediate and ongoing impact it has on an individual, family, community and nation. The theme this year is particularly poignant when you consider the numbers of refugees in camps in Asia, Africa and Europe, and I am proud that Ealing continues to offer a safe home to survivors that are driven out of, or wrenched from, their homes, and support them as they try to find and build new homes.”