Facing the mistakes of the past: Bath remembers the Holocaust
On the 27th of January 1945, allied forces liberated the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, in the closing chapters of the Second World War.
The Holocaust, one of the deadliest and most vicious acts perpetrated on the human race, saw the mass killing of 6 million Jewish children, women and men by the genocidal Nazi regime. Other groups were also targeted, such as gypsies, homosexuals, liberals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Poles, Soviets, those with mental and physical disabilities, and Afro-Germans.
Every January people around the world come together to mark the anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. And for a number of years, Bath and North East Somerset has joined the observances by marking Holocaust Memorial Day at the Guildhall. The observances this year took place on 24th of January, with a gathering of people including various councillors and representatives of faith groups.
Torn from Home
This year's reflections at the Guildhall were built around the theme 'Torn from Home', to encourage everybody to think about how the loss of a safe place to call home is part of the trauma suffered by those experiencing persecution and genocide, alongside the difficulties survivors face as they try to find and build new homes when the genocide is over.
First to speak was Councillor Sarah Bevan, Human Rights Advocate for the Council. She said that as the daughter of a European survivor of the Holocaust, she was pleased to be leading the reflections. Mrs Bevan said that we all have feelings around home and its meaning to us, therefore the theme of being torn from home helps us to connect with the tragic events. She made a connection with the housing of Syrian refugees in Bath, saying that, "To welcome the persecuted is our duty as human beings."
Councillor Karen Walker, Chairwoman for the Council, said that we all have a responsibility to remember and do what is right.
The solemn occasion at the Guildhall included readings of poetry and the local newspaper extract reproduced below, which was written at the time of the Holocaust. A candle was lit for remembrance and silent reflection. Then a violin solo (pictured) was played by Seona Pritchard of the Ramshackle Orchestra originally established by Nina Trott, a Jewish musician who lived in Bath.
Extract from the Bath Chronicle, 13th May 1939
Refugees in Bath from Germany
Throughout Greater Germany there are upwards of 60,000 and 70,000 children – Jewish and Christian – always hungry, because their parents are forbidden to earn the money to live; always afraid, for their fellows may beat them, kick them, kill them, un-reproved and even encouraged. Forbidden to attend school or play in the streets, dreading every moment the Concentration Camp for father or elder brother, dreading insult from Storm Troopers to mother or elder sister.
We in Bath are sheltering 22 of these children. About the same number of children are waiting to come to us.
The work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
Holocaust Memorial Day is organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a charity established by the Government to support "remembrance in a world scarred by genocide".
A booklet produced by the charity was available at the Guildhall to take away. It summarised the Holocaust and other examples of genocide in Cambodia (1975-1979), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995) and Darfur in Sudan (2003-present).
The Holocaust Memorial Trust produces a newsletter and offers free resources including school materials, films and life stories. You can visit their website at: www.hmd.org.uk .