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Cambridge commemorates victims of the Holocaust and genocide with online events and civic ceremony

News release from 26 January 2021

CAMBRIDGE is marking Holocaust Memorial Day online this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a series of events leading up to the annual civic ceremony on Sunday. 

Cambridge City Council is hosting the online commemorative ceremony from 5pm on Sunday 31 January. Anyone can join in online for free to see guest speakers including poet and author Michael Rosen, and Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke plus musical performances, dance pieces, readings, poetry and artworks. 

To view this year’s commemorative ceremony people can visit https://vimeo.com/501706925 or for more information visit http://bit.ly/CamHMD2021  

Ahead of this, on Holocaust Memorial Day itself (Wednesday 27 January) there will be a number of online events for schools, while Michael Rosen will unveil a new poem ‘Light in the Darkness’ (see https://vimeo.com/501887260) and the Guildhall will be lit up in purple from 4pm by the Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Russ McPherson.

Also on Wednesday 27 January, from 8pm, Michael Rosen will give a talk about how he discovered what had really happened to relatives of his who were murdered by Nazis in World War Two. This event is also free, but donations to the Refugee Charity will be requested when booking in advance at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/michael-rosen-the-missing-tickets-136844815527  

Cllr Anna Smith, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “It is once again our privilege to host Cambridge’s commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day this year. Despite the limitations caused by the pandemic there is a full programme of events and activities that people can join in with online.  

“This will be an opportunity to mourn and remember the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, the millions of other people killed in Nazi persecution, as well as the victims of subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur.  

“The theme of this year’s commemoration is ‘Be the Light in the Darkness’. As the darkness of fascism threatens to reappear in some parts of the world, this is an opportunity for us all to commit to being lights in the darkness ourselves, by standing up against hatred and persecution.” 

The Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Russ McPherson, said: “I am very proud that we in Cambridge continue to mark the Holocaust Memorial day even in such challenging circumstances. During this Covid-19 crisis it is still vitally important for the world to acknowledge and remember such terrible events, thereby ensuring that the victims and the heroes of these events are not now nor ever will be forgotten.  

“I take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in getting this year’s programme together and for making it so accessible to all. We may not be able to meet in person as before, but it does not lessen the importance of this memorial day in any way, indeed it does mean that even more people will be able to take part in the ambitious programme of events which are planned. Please engage in as many of the online events as you are able and take a little time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that their suffering and loss was not in vain.”   

Michael Rosen said: "I’ve been privileged to be working each year with over two thousand young people in Cambridge Schools.

"We’ve heard eye-witness testimony from genocide survivors from the Holocaust, Rwanda and Bosnia. We’ve had moving discussions.

"I’ve been recalling what happened to my family in the Holocaust and the students have listened and reflected.  And then responded themselves by writing their own poetry and narratives, song lyrics, dramas, dances, artworks, words.

"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 was both the murder of millions of people but also that it was an attempt to extinguish them from memory.

"As many in Cambridge know, I’ve been on a journey to research what happened to my uncles, THE MISSING people in my family.  Martin Rozen and Oscar (known as Jeschie) Rosen, were the Uncles my Dad told me when I was a child “were there at the beginning of the War, but they had ‘disappeared’ by the end".

"Writing about my family members who were murdered by the Nazis will never replace them, but recalling them through words and performances means that their memory has NOT been wiped from history."

Helen Weinstein, Artistic Director for Cambridge's Holocause Memorial Day programme said: "Although the past year has been challenging with the pandemic, as Artistic Director for Cambridge’s Holocaust Memorial Day events and education programme, I’ve been able to use my experience as a producer and broadcaster to make films to enable engagement online.

"I’ve been organising genocide survivors to speak in schools alongside bringing in artists for creative online workshops for Cambridge’s Holocaust Education programme.

"The aim is very much focused on encouraging young people to respond creatively to what they are learning - to help them digest and deepen their understanding of genocides.

"With our Poet in Residence, Michael Rosen, school students are inspired to write poetry, songs, stories, - make films, animations, dramas, dances, pictures - to work creatively when reflecting on the Holocaust evidence and testimonies they are learning about in history workshops.

"This year the civic event will be launched as a film at 5pm on Sunday 31 January and there are some very uplifting performances.

"We ask everyone in Cambridge to join us for this free event and to bring their own candle to light so that residents can participate from home in a virtual ceremony."