Local MP Robert Buckland, Mayor Ray Ballman and council officials joined those gathered around Swindon’s cenotaph in bitterly cold temperatures and beautiful sunshine to mark Holocaust Day 2012.
The ceremony opened with a haunting violin duet played by musicians Debbie and Michael as we were reminded how important music and the arts were to those inside the Nazi death camps.
Matt Holland addressed those present to remember the innocent victims of genocide, not only the six million Jews who died during the Second World War but those massacred since in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.
By November 1939 the international press had already revealed there was mounting evidence of the plight of Jews in German occupied Poland. Kept behind barbed wire in huge camps called ‘reservations’ men up to the age of 70 and women up to 55 were made to do 12 hours of forced labour a day with just one thirty minute break. Children were looked after by the older women where it was reported ‘concentration camp discipline prevails.’
An estimated 650,000 Jews were expected to have been removed to this area by April 1, 1940. “Where a German Jew has married a non-Jew, both are being forced to go,” the Danish newspaper Politi Ken reported. “This has led to many suicides, the Jewish husband or wife preferring to die, so that the survivor can continue to live in Germany.”
On this, the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Matt reminded us of the power of words and the theme of this year’s event, ‘dare to speak up and speak out against wrong.’