Words by Ed King
As the world remembers Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on Friday 27 January, a special ceremony will be held on Erdington High Street at 1:30pm.
Organised by Everyone Erdington, the multi faith organisation set up to ‘celebrate diverse Erdington’, Friday’s event is the continuation of an annual remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day – which looks back at the genocide and mass extermination of Jews and other communities in World War II, as well as reminding us of more modern atrocities in places like Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, and Bosnia.
The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 is ‘ordinary people’, recognising the day to day folk who are both responsible for and victims off human brutality. As the HMD website states: ‘Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Ordinary people turn a blind eye, believe propaganda, join murderous regimes.
Everyone Erdington’s event will start by playing the theme music to Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 ‘Ordinary People’ – before a reading about the Veseli’s, a Muslim family who sheltered Jews during World War II in a small Albanian mountain village.
There will also be presentations from local schools St Edmund Campion and St Barnabas, with the later sharing stories about children who suffered during the Rwanda Civil War.
Music and moments of collective remembrance will also take place, with a final reading about Holocaust survivor Harry Spriro – who was separated from his family in his early teens, after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and spent World War II in concentration and labour camps.
Harry Spriro’s family were murdered in the Poland based Trebilnka death camp, alongside an estimated 6,000,000 Jewish people across Europe during the Nazi’s Holocaust during World War II – including systematic pogroms and mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen).
Harry himself was one 270 people who survived the ‘death march’ to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, which began with 3000 prisoners.
The Nazi’s also massacred an estimated 5,000,000 people who were not specifically Jewish during the Holocaust – including Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, Soviet prisoners of war, and Romani and Polish people.
Gerard Goshawk, minister at Six Ways Baptist Church and part of Everyone Erdington, told Erdington Local: “We are pleased once again to be marking Holocaust Memorial Day here in Erdington. What we offer is an intimate, accessible and meaningful event to mark this really significant occasion.
“Those of us organising it and those taking part recognise the importance of remembering the evil of genocide and making sure that our community here in Erdington remains strong and positive in celebrating diversity and challenging discrimination and hatred.”
Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton added: “As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, we will honour those who were murdered during the Holocaust and pay tribute to those who survived.
“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale to reflect on one of the darkest periods in world history and ensure we always stand together against antisemitism, demonisation and hate.”
Erdington Ward Councillors Gareth Moore and Robert Alden have been attending the Holocaust Memorial Day events in Erdington since they began in 2017.
Cllr Gareth Moore told Erdington Local: “It has become a welcome tradition that here in Erdington we have a yearly event, organised by Everyone Erdington, paying our respects and remembering those who lives where stolen in such tragic acts.”
Cllr Robert Alden, who studied the Holocaust as part of his history education and has visited the infamous Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, added: “It is vital that we remember genocide events such as the Holocaust, however we must also ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again.
“It would be a grave mistake if we were to assume that the horrific incidents of the past cannot happen again that is why it is on us all to be vigilant and to remind people of the things that we all have in common not the differences.
“This why programmes like British Values in our schools are so important, they remind everyone of the things we have in common, of the shared values that everyone can have regardless of race, wealth or sex.
“Once you have visited Aushwitz-Birkeneau the feeling it leaves in you doesn’t go away, it stays with you, it is important that people come together to remember but looking forward we must continue to ensure it can never happen again.”
Everyone Erdington will hold a free Holocaust Memorial Day event on Friday 27 January at 1:30pm, on the Village Green at the end of Erdington High Street – opposite Erdington Library.
For more from Everyone Erdington visit: www.facebook.com/EveryoneErdington
For more on Holocaust Memorial Day visit: www.hmd.org.uk