Cheshire East Council held a moving service of remembrance to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.
The guest speaker was Tomi Komoly BEM, a Hungarian-born Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, who gave powerful personal testimony of his family’s experience of the Nazi genocide during the Second World War.
Mr Komoly has received the British Empire Medal for his work in Holocaust education.
The Mayor of Cheshire East, Councillor David Marren, council leader Cllr Sam Corcoran and deputy leader Cllr Craig Browne, led civic dignitaries and members of the public in the poignant ceremony at Sandbach Town Hall on Friday 27 January, which included readings and lighting candles of remembrance.
Cllr Marren said: “Each year the Holocaust Memorial Trust sets a theme; this year it is ‘ordinary people’. Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people.
“Those persecuted, oppressed and murdered in genocides are not picked out because of crimes that they committed – they are persecuted simply because they belong to a particular group. Ordinary people were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust, they were perpetrators, bystanders, witnesses. And ordinary people were victims.
“Holocaust Memorial Day is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own – it is a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented.
“We are fortunate here in the UK – we are not at immediate 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 Holocaust Memorial Day provides an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to this process. As a Cheshire East community, we remember and recognise that humanity is still scarred by the false beliefs held by some, that race, religion, disability or sexuality make some people’s lives worth less than others.”
Cllr Corcoran read the celebrated poem ‘First They Came’ by Pastor Martin Niemöller, and Cllr Browne gave personal testimony from his experiences in Romania. Father Michael Morton, of St Winefride’s Church, Sandbach, led the prayers.
Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, and genocides worldwide.
The Holocaust resulted in the annihilation of an estimated six million Jews, two million Gypsies, 15,000 homosexual people and millions of others by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
Since 1945, there have been several other attempted genocides across the world – including Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur – and these are also commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day.
This January’s service, which included an exhibition of information about the Holocaust, marks the 10th consecutive year Cheshire East Council has commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day. Due to the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, the council issued recorded messages, rather than live events, in 2021 and 2022.