Music and memories mark Holocaust Memorial Day

“To this day I cannot stand the smell of warm milk” Holocaust Survivor Channah Greenberg said. She was only a child, hiding behind a cupboard as her mother prepared her a cup of hot milk, when Nazi officers came and took her mother away. Channah never saw her again.

Against all odds, Channah survived the Nazi’s mission to exterminate the entire Jewish population and other ‘undesirables’ of Europe. Six million others, including both her mother and father, did not.

As part of international Holocaust Memorial Day (Friday 27 January), Hackney came together to remember the many victims who suffered during the Nazi’s murderous regime and in subsequent genocides around the world.

Alongside Channah Greenberg’s harrowing personal account, there were moving speeches from local Councillors, Cllr Sharer and Cllr Odze, as well as reflections from students at The Urswick School who had been on a study visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘How can life go on?’ which considered how individuals, communities and nations can survive in the wake of such crimes and the responsibilities we all have to ensure that the do not happen again.

Pupils from Simon Marks Jewish Primary School and The Olive School Hackney, a Muslim faith school, came together to sing ‘We Shall Overcome’, a song with a message of hope, often sung by defenders of civil rights across the globe.

Music was used throughout the moving ceremony starting with a solo cello performance of Tchaikovsky ‘s Chanson Triste by eight year old Finn Anderson-Hendra. The well-known Jewish resistance song of the ghettos ‘Undzer Shtetl Brent’ (Our town is burning), was performed, in Yiddish, by Barry Davis.

In her opening speech, The Speaker of Hackney, said: “By standing together – here and in other ceremonies throughout the world - we make our contribution to preventing further holocausts – and ensuring that life goes on.”

After the ceremony the Speaker of Hackney, Cllr Rosemary Sales, together with Mayor Philip Glanville and some of the pupils who had taken part in the ceremony placed flowers at the Holocaust memorial in Hackney Town Hall Square. The memorial holds the apt inscription “Commandment number one of any civilised society is this: let people be different”.