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Cambridge commemorates victims of the Holocaust and genocide at Guildhall ceremony

News release from 24/01/2018

CAMBRIDGE City Council is commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day with a free civic ceremony at Cambridge Guildhall on Sunday 28 January from 5pm.

This year the theme for the Holocaust Memorial Day programme is ‘The Power of Words’. The programme explores how words were used in the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur to cause and inspire hate, and to encourage and justify violence, but how words can also be used as a force for good.

The Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the Guildhall will comprise songs, readings, poetry and drama, including words from survivor testimonies and messages from groups actively campaigning for equalities and supporting diversity today.

Speakers appearing at the ceremony will include Jo Ingabire Moys, whose story will take the audience on a journey from hatred to reconciliation in Rwanda, where she preserves genocide memories through literature to help build a positive future for the country.

Peter Lantos, who survived the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen to become a top UK medical researcher will also be recounting some of his childhood experiences of hate crimes.

As part of this year’s programme for Holocaust Memorial Day, hundreds of school students have been working on projects with poet Michael Rosen, historian Helen Weinstein of Historyworks, and holocaust survivor Eva Clarke.

The ceremony will feature newly commissioned pieces by Michael Rosen arranged for local choirs to perform, plus works co-created and performed by young people from a number of Cambridge schools.

The schools involved in workshops with Michael Rosen, organised by Historyworks, over recent months include secondary schools Coleridge Community College, Trumpington Community College and Parkside Community College from the Parkside Federation.

Year Five and Six pupils from Abbey Meadows, Ridgefield, St Philip’s and St Matthew’s primary schools have been involved in workshops while many schools have also held special Holocaust Memorial Day assemblies.

Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “We are honoured once again to be hosting Cambridge’s commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day at the Guildhall.

“This year’s theme, ‘The Power of Words’ is a timely reminder that what people write and say, especially about others, can have far-reaching effects both for good and ill.

“Events such as this are an opportunity for people to come together and express their solidarity with those who have experienced the very worst of humanity, and to demonstrate that Cambridge is a place that rejects all forms of persecution, discrimination and hatred.”

Michael Rosen, renowned poet and ‘poet in residence’ at Historyworks in Cambridge, said: “I’ve been privileged to be reaching hundreds of young people in Cambridge over the past few months to introduce the theme of remembering past atrocities of the Holocaust and the power of words to hurt and to heal.

“As part of this education project in Cambridge I’ve been commissioned by Helen to write new poems on this year’s theme “The Power of Words” and we are asking several hundred young people in primary schools to read historically informed poetry and perform new songs, and for secondary school students to be writing their own lyrics reflecting on what they’ve learnt in our Holocaust workshops. 

“The magic of words is that they can conjure up what is not there, what has disappeared, and much worse, what has been removed or exterminated. The terror of the Holocaust is both the extermination of millions of people but also that it was an attempt to extinguish the Jews and others from memory, including murdering homosexuals, mentally ill and disabled people, Roma and Sinti people and others from minority ethnic groups, political and faith activists.  With ‘the Power of Words’ we defeat that aim, we bring back all those who were destroyed, all those who perished.”

Helen Weinstein, Director of Historyworks and producer for the Cambridge Holocaust Memorial programme, said: “It has been an honour and privilege to be producing the programme for Cambridge to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.  Not only have we been active in schools, often introducing students to the history of the Holocaust for the first time, we are also encouraging the young people to understand the stories of the past and relate them to their present, and they are writing astonishing new poems and songs and dramas.”

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