27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day, but in Islington the principal event was held today at the borough Assembly Rooms.
The event, which was ably chaired by Jeremy Corbyn MP, featured three speakers: Eve Kanner Kugler, a child survivor of the Holocaust; Richard Tanner, a fund-raiser for Amnesty International, whose sister died in a massacre in Burundi; and Sophie Masereka, who experienced the killing of many of her family and neighbours in the Rwandan genocide. Unfortunately I arrived late from another meeting, but in time to hear Sophie, who spoke quietly and movingly about the traumatic events she had witnessed, and attributed her survival to a series of ‘miracles’.
All three speakers participated in a panel discussion, answering questions asked by the many high school children who attended the event. One young man, Kieran Butler, read aloud a poem he had written about the importance of remembering the Holocaust.
The commemoration culminated with the reading of the United Nations Statement of Commitment. To my surprise, having replied to an invitation for the event, I was asked to read one of the commitments alongside other faith and community leaders. The statement reads as follows:
- We recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning.
- We believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation’s collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us, and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice.
- We must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocide.
- We value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil.
- We recognise that humanity is still scarred by the belief that race, religion, disability or sexuality make some people’s lives worth less than others’. Genocide, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still continue. We have a shared responsibility to fight these evils.
- We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocide. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt.
- We will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, tolerant, and democratic society.