Thursday, 13 February, 2014

Across the UK people marked Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 by coming together to learn about the journeys taken during the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and during the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The Welsh Government and Cardiff Council held the national HMD commemorations for Wales.  Around 600 people gathered in Cardiff City Hall to hear about the life stories and journeys taken by survivors seeking sanctuary in the UK, as well as journeys taken, in memory, by younger people back to sites of persecution.

The audience included school children, Holocaust survivors, councillors and representatives of the local Jewish community.  Two young speakers from Newport spoke about their experiences participating in the Lessons from Auschwitz project before reciting Charles N Whittaker’s poem Auschwitz.

There were contributions from the First Minister of Wales and the Lord Mayor of Cardiff; and performances from the Vale of Glamorgan Youth Choir and a string quartet.  To represent the multitude of voices we pause to remember on HMD, they were joined by representatives from the Aegis Trust, Disability Wales, Race Equality First; the transgender community, and the Gypsy Traveller community.

Two memorial trees were displayed outside the main ceremony hall and attendees were asked to fill in a luggage tag to make their pledge and hang these messages on the trees. 

Heini Gruffudd, whose parents escaped Nazi Persecution in Germany, spoke eloquently about their experience.  An exhibition from the Hineni Project was also displayed.  This showed photographs and life stories from the Cardiff Reform Jewish Community, telling their stories and their relationship with Wales, the UK and their religion. Refugees and Holocaust survivors have contributed to this project which focused on issues relating to community and place, history and memory, identity and belonging.

HMDT National Support Worker for Wales, Lesley Blower said:

‘Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked across Wales by many groups and organisations who have each sought to produce an activity appropriate for their community and area.

‘The diversity of ideas and engagement is evident in the range of activities undertaken this year – these include school assemblies, individual lessons in schools and colleges, library events, candlelit walks, exhibitions representing those fleeing Nazi persecution, silent vigils, community groups coming together for an evening, youth club involvement and many workplaces having displays and information for staff and visitors alike.   

‘It has been fantastic to see so many young people taking part and this includes the larger civic style events as well as school based activities. Many organisers and individuals are already looking ahead to 2015 in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau as they recognise the importance of the date and its significance to Holocaust commemoration.’

We worked alongside the Welsh government to translate some of our resources into Welsh including life stories of Ann Kirk, Bob Kirk and Freddie Knoller.  The poem First they came was also translated into Welsh.

First Minister of Wales, Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM said:

‘We in Wales are proud to reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing remembrance of those who died under Nazi Persecution, the Holocaust, and other genocides.  This year in particular – the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda – the case for commemoration is especially strong.  

‘As First Minister, I am heartened that Wales can offer a new home to many people who have escaped persecution and genocide around the globe. The journeys that have brought them here to Wales will be many and varied, no doubt involving great courage and fortitude.

‘It is now up to us all, as individuals and as a community, to keep their stories alive and to continue working for a more just and tolerant society.’

If you attended or organised an activity to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 anywhere in the UK then we would like to hear about it.  Let us know by emailing enquiries@hmd.org.uk.