Holocaust Memorial Day 2018
By the age of 15 Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg had been sent to five concentration camps, forced to work as a slave labourer, denied an education and was subject to systematic brutal treatment and starvation.
Against all odds, Manfred survived the Nazi’s mission to exterminate the entire Jewish population and other ‘undesirables’ of Europe. Six million others, including all of his extended family and younger brother did not.
The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘The Power of Words’ which considers how words can make a difference, both for good and evil. From propaganda and slogans that incite hatred to the testimonies of survivors that inspire systems to change, words have a powerful impact upon those around us.
Born in 1930 Manfred Goldberg now 87, was at first was unable to talk about his traumatic experiences during the war. Now he feels that with the rise of antisemitism it is important for survivors to speak out, so the younger generation can hear first-hand accounts of the Holocaust. During his harrowing personal account he spoke about how the Nazis dehumanised their prisoners. He said: “We even lost our names, all we had was a number for identification. Mine is still deeply ingrained in my mind, 56478. Through it all though, I never lost my determination to survive.”
As part of international Holocaust Memorial Day, Hackney came together on Monday 29 January to remember the many victims who suffered during the Nazi’s murderous regime and in subsequent genocides around the world.
Alongside Manfred Goldberg’s account, pupils from Simon Marks Jewish Primary School and The Olive School Hackney, a Muslim faith school, came together to sing ‘Heal the World’, and a homage was paid to Hackney based Yiddish singer and scholar, Barry Davis who passed away last year.
There were also a rendition of Prayer (Ernest Bloch) by the SALZ Quartet and moving presentations from local school students including a reading of Primo Levi’s ‘Shelma’ by Darren King, Year 13 at The Urswick School.
The Holocaust was a defining event in human history; its legacies continue to shape the modern world whilst, the challenging questions it raises about human behaviour have universal relevance. In marking Holocaust Memorial Day we are provided with scope to unify our voices in calling for an end to racial, ethnic, religious, disability, gender and sexuality based violence and oppression.
After the ceremony the Speaker of Hackney, together with some of the students who had taken part in the ceremony placed flowers at the Holocaust memorial in Hackney Town Hall Square, which contains the apt inscription “Commandment number one of any civilised society is this: let people be different”.