National Holocaust Memorial Day Event, Monday 28th January 2013

For the second year running, I was privileged to receive an invitation to the national Holocaust Memorial Day event in London. Around 500 guests, amongst them Holocaust and genocide survivors, MPs, faith leaders and young people were invited to hear speeches and music, watch videos and commemorate those who have lost their lives through genocide.
The event took place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, opposite Westminster Abbey. As can be seen in the photo on the left, large flags marking the venue were flying outside. My heart swelled when I thought of all the tourists, businessmen and passers-by who could see them and be aware that we in the UK take Holocaust remembrance and awareness so seriously.

The ceremony was compered by British historian and lecturer Simon Schama and Yoletta Nyange, a Rwandan-born journalist. Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE - who I'm pleased to say I have organised to come and give a talk at my university next week - spoke about her experiences and the importance of this year's theme. You can read her speech from the event here.
We also heard from a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, known simply as Sophie. Genocide in Rwanda happened only 19 years ago, during my own lifetime, and I had tears in my eyes by the end of Sophie's incredibly moving testimony. Her speech is also available to read by clicking this link.

Speeches were also given by Lord Sacks, who will shortly be stepping down as Chief Rabbi, and the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The traditional six candles were lit by those including Holocaust survivor and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust President Ben Helfgott and representatives for Muslim and Roma and Sinti organisations.
A musical interlude came from Tatcho Drom, a Gypsy-inspired quintet, who played traditional song 'Djelem Djelem', and the ceremony finished with the ACM Gospel Choir singing 'A Bridge of Voice', a song specially commissioned for this year's Holocaust Memorial Day theme. The latter was also sung at a ceremony held on Millennium Bridge on Sunday. Cantor Jonny Turgel also sang the beautiful but haunting 'El Male Rachamim', a Jewish prayer to remember those murdered by the Nazis.

It was a very touching, very moving ceremony and I can only offer my thanks and support to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for inviting me and organising such a fantastic event.