Yesterday, we were honoured to be joined by Lia Lesser at Sandwell's Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration service. The service was held at Highfields House, where Sandwell's Holocaust memorial plaque stands.
Lia escaped Nazi Germany and came to Britain on the Kindertransport aged 8. Kristallnacht had just rocked Nazi Germany. The pogroms killed dozens of Jews, burnt hundreds of synagogues and imprisoned tens of thousands in concentration camps. But amid the horror, Britain agreed to take in children threatened by the Nazi murder machine.
The theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day was "How can life go on?". Times of genocide are always times of acute social upheaval; tens of thousands, sometimes millions, of people are forced from or flee their homes. The question of how life can go on is bound up with where it goes on. We were privileged to hear Lia's very moving story of how she was welcomed to this country with open arms and made a new life here.
HMD is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. We’re fortunate here in the UK; we are not at risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. There is still much to do to create a safer future and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.
Councillor Melia led those present in making the Statement of Commitment, the full text of which can be found here
The final point in the Statement of Commitment is "We will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual UK Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, tolerant and democratic society"
Now more than ever, we must ensure that we understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon it's consequences.