Councils the length and breadth of the country from Exeter to Swansea, arrange ceremonies or events each Holocaust Memorial Day. Many include readings and presentations given by local schoolchildren from all backgrounds, which help to educate them about the past, with a view to avoiding such atrocities in the future. It helps bring the community together and enhances social cohesion, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust provides support and information to each Council which participates.
This year, most events will take place on or around 27th January, the theme is ‘Torn from Home,’ which will encourage audiences to reflect on how the enforced loss of a safe place to call ‘home’ is part of the trauma faced by anyone experiencing persecution and genocide. We will reflect upon what happens when individuals, families and communities are driven out of, or wrenched from their homes, because of persecution or the threat of genocide, alongside the continuing difficulties survivors face as they try to find and build new homes when the genocide ends.
Services not only commemorate those who suffered in The Holocaust, but also subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
But not in Bromley.
I work in the borough – the largest in London – my company, On the House, has been based in Church Road, Crystal Palace for 33 years, although on the very edge, we try to keep an eye on what is going on locally. I recently met Cllr Katherine Bance MBE, at a meeting, who represents Penge on the Council, I was surprised to discover Bromley does not hold a Holocaust Memorial Day, I therefore wrote to the Chief Executive suggesting they do in future.
There is, of course, a Catford and Bromley Synagogue and a Reform Shul in Highland Road, Bromley. But events and services are not just for the Jewish community, The Holocaust affected people from many backgrounds and should be commemorated by all, including local MP’s, civic representatives and policy makers.
It is edifying that many areas with few Jewish residents still hold meaningful commemorations, it is important not just to remember the past but to ensure that despite all the divisions and chaos we see and hear of around the world, nothing like that ever happens again. All of us can learn from the past; everywhere.