The millions of people lost in genocides across the world were remembered at a Holocaust Memorial Day service in Bury St Edmunds’ Peace Garden today.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral’s Rev Canon Matthew Vernon reminded the small crowd gathered in the cold that they were part of a worldwide act of remembrance, held annually on the day in 1945 Auschwitz was liberated.
But as well as the six million who died in the Nazi Holocaust, who Rev Vernon pointed out included gipsies, homosexuals and the disabled, the service also recalled the victims of other genocides, including Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia.
Rev Vernon also recognised that Christian history is ‘scared by anti-semitism’.
The service included a reading of Moshe Szulsztein’s poem The Shoes on behalf of the Jewish community by Joy Walker, from Cotton, who had relatives in Poland who perished in the camps.
Guildhall Feoffment School’s Benjamin Britten choir sang a traditional Jewish song and the Prayer of St Francis, and planted snowdrops in remembrance.
Before councillors read the Holocaust Memorial Day Statement of Commitment, St Edmundsbury Mayor Julia Wakelam said: “It’s important we all of us remember we are part of the same human race.”
This year’s memorial day theme was ‘How can we go on’, referring to life after genocide. Rev Vernon spoke of the impact such events have on countries, communities and individuals, and the support they needed.
He added: “Many who survive suffer post traumatic stress disorder afterwards, so the slightest thing can trigger memories.”
He read a statement from Cambodian Chanrithy Him who said the sight of someone dressed in black took him back to the horrors he survived because it was the uniform of the Khmer Rouge.
Rev Vernon said for some there was a loss of home and identity and quoted Holocaust survivor Trude Levi who spoke of her stateless wandering of Europe because she lost her nationality by not returning to Hungary after the war. She wrote: “It took 12 more years to obtain a nationality and become a recognised, civil person again.”
The service was closed by children from Guildhall Feoffment School reading Roland Gittlesohn’s In the Rising of the Sun, which finishes “So long as we live, they too shall live, For they are now part of us, As we shall remember them.”
For more on Holocaust Memorial Day across the world, visit www.hmd.org.uk