Cheshire East Council held a poignant service of remembrance to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.
Cheshire East Mayor Councillor Arthur Moran, Mayor of Sandbach Councillor Martin Forster and Cheshire East Council’s acting executive director of people Mark Palethorpe led members of the public, local schoolchildren and civic dignitaries, representing communities from across the borough, at a Holocaust Memorial Day Act of Remembrance.
The ceremony at Sandbach Town Hall included personal testaments from two women survivors of the Holocaust, sisters Sonja Sternberg, 91, and Gisela Feldman, 94. As children in 1939, they were both aboard the trans-Atlantic liner SS St Louis, which was carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees from Germany that was rejected by Cuba and then the United States and forced to return to Europe.
More than a quarter of the passengers ultimately perished in Nazi death camps and the plight of the ship’s passengers became a symbol of Western indifference toward the victims of Nazi persecution.
Today’s service also included singing and musical performances by pupils from Knutsford Academy and Sandbach School and prayers were read by the Rev Thomas Shepherd, vicar of St Mary’s Church, Sandbach. The lighting of memorial candles was followed by two minutes’ silence and the tolling of a bell.
Mark Palethorpe said: “It is important that we continue to remember the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and never forget the devastation visited upon so many innocent lives. I am particularly pleased to see so many young people here today, as it is vital that the lessons learned from the Holocaust are passed from generation to generation.
“This solemn ceremony is an occasion when the people of Cheshire East join together, as a community, to remember, bear witness and say ‘never again’.”
Holocaust Memorial Day has taken place on the same date since it was introduced in 2001. January 27 was chosen as that was the date when the Nazis’ notorious Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945.
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 Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia and others – and these are also commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day.
This is the fifth consecutive year the council has held an annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.