Hackney Council commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day 2020
“I was almost dead, barely breathing and unconscious for long periods, but they found me and I was liberated” said Harry Olmer, “I had survived but many had not.”
During the height of the Second World War, Harry, a teenage Jewish Polish boy, was sent to a concentration camp.
Mr Olmer, now 92 told his story at the Town Hall to mark this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day where around 100 members of the public, dignitaries and school children gathered.
Following the German invasion of Poland, Harry, the fourth of six children, along with his family fled to his grandmother’s village of Miechów-Charsznica in the hope that they could escape the Nazis.
However, in 1942 the Jews of Miechów-Charsznica and neighbouring villages were rounded up to either be killed or sent to work in forced labour camps. Harry, with his brother and father was sent to Skarżysko-Kamienna, where he was one of tens of thousands of Polish Jews forced to work in a dangerous chemical factory.
Until he was liberated in 1945 Harry endured Nazi persecution, he said: “The conditions were horrible, it is hard to find the words to describe the rancid smell, the cursing, the crying. There were many mornings when I would wake up next to a corpse, as men tragically died during the night.”
Against all odds, Harry survived the Nazi’s murderous mission to exterminate the entire Jewish population, and other ‘undesirables’ of Europe as he was was finally freed by the Russian army.
Over six million others, including members of his family, did not.
Following the war Harry came to the UK with 300 young holocaust survivors, known as ‘The Boys’.
They were moved to Glasgow and later to Windermere in the Lake District, which Harry describes as heaven in comparison to where they had just been.
In 1950 Harry became a British citizen and later served in the army as a dentist, he went on to marry and have four children and eight grandchildren.
Harry’s story is a stark reminder of the loss inflicted by the holocaust at the hands of the Nazi regime and subsequent genocides since.
In keeping with this years theme of #StandTogether, Hackney’s Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony included a song sung together by the Simon Marks Jewish School and Muslim faith school, The Olive School.
The Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville along with Members of the council, students and community leaders also read out a statement of commitment against all forms of discrimination at the Ceremony.
I feel honoured and humbled to be part of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration service. It is important that we look back and remember all those who have suffered, that we learn the lessons from the past and work even harder to make sure that they never happen again.
This year’s theme ‘Stand Together’ prompts us to think about how we can all work together to build a cohesive and kind community where people can respect and love one another despite their differences.
Following the service, the Mayor along with Cllr Adams and school pupils placed a floral tribute at Hackney’s Holocaust Memorial tree, in the Town Hall square.