Year Six Pupils from Essex Primary School recently participated in an event to remember the victims of the Nazi Persecution and more recent genocides across the globe.
Newham’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day, held at Stratford’s Old Town Hall, brought together speakers, film, poetry and music in a poignant ceremony. This year’s theme, ‘How Can Life Go On?’, saw each presentation connect the lessons of the past with the need for a safer and better future.
The guest of honour was Mr Harry Olmer, who had survived the Nazi Holocaust to come to the UK as a teenager. As he shared his harrowing testimony of imprisonment and loss, the assembled Newham school representatives, dignitaries and residents listened in awe.
To complement his words, there were musical performances by Newham’s Every Child a Musician Orchestra and readings from school groups. Two pupils from Essex Primary School (Ittehad Noor and Far Sirithorn) read a poem written collaboratively with a group of other young poets from the school.
With Ittehad and Far, Essex pupils Mubasshirah Khan, Maliha Raj and Nawal Hawad wanted their work to reference genocides past and present in a call for world peace. Their powerful poem, entitled ‘The Question’, echoes some Mr Olmer’s experiences in its reflection upon the horrors of genocide:
Do you remember when, to admire vibrant nature,
A boy could sit beneath a willow tree
And read of humanity’s achievements.
His family safe and peaceful. His heart carefree.
Then torment took over. With one rule and one ruler
The blissful boy’s life was ruined forever:
The murdering beauty of the yellow sun
Was stitched on his arm to invite the gun.
Do you remember
That photo snatched as they dragged him out?
So cruelly shredded, like families ripped apart
And forced upon the treacherous train.
The merry home ruined. Just cramped rooms of death
Where in a dance of destruction contorted and thin
Trapped, caged, betrayed, with no room for breath
Lay thousands of bodies bound together by skin.
And the boy… do you know he is still suffering?
He drowns in oceans of pain and poverty,
He dies each day of desperation, discrimination,
In the camps that still cover the world’s weeping face.
When this time to remember comes around,
We must tell of the people who have passed,
And pray with our heads to the ground—
And ask this last question: when will humanity reconcile?
When can the boy feel calm, and finally be
Safe to sit under his willow tree?
After the programme of music, film and readings came to an end, the event culminated in a candle lighting ceremony. Six candles, each one representing one million Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, were lit. The honour of lighting went to Mr Olmer, the Deputy Lieutenant for Newham, The Mayor of Newham, The Young Mayor of Newham, The Chair of Newham Council and The Chief Executive of Newham Council.
The event drew to a close with a minute of quiet reflection, where the audience were invited to remember all those who have lost their lives in atrocities across the globe.