Solemn Stevenge event to mark Holocaust anniversary was ‘the biggest ever’
- Credit: Archant
Stevenage was at the centre of Hertfordshire’s remembrance of the Holocaust on Tuesday evening as civic dignitaries, community representatives and members of the public flocked to be part of proceedings.
It was standing room only in the council chamber for the annual event, organised by Stevenage Borough Council and supported by the Stevenage Liberal Synagogue, which this year marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp at the end of the Second World War and is believed to have attracted its biggest-ever attendance.
The ceremony drew on materials supplied by the Holocaust Memorial Trust, which aims to highlight the horrors of genocide across the generations and around the world.
Mayor of Stevenage Sherma Batson was joined by Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire the Countess of Verulam, mayors and civic leaders from neighbouring towns, fellow councillors and local religious leaders to see the lighting of the memorial candle.
Those in the audience heard a moving address from Harry Heber, who was only seven years old when his parents managed to arrange his escape from Nazi-occupied Austria before war broke out. He and his sister were able to build a new life in England, and although his parents both survived the war many family members died in concentration camps.
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Student rabbi Emily Hurman, who lit the remembrance candle at the conclusion of the service, and Dr Shahid Khan representing Stevenage’s Muslim community, both made appeals for tolerance and understanding.
Councillor Batson and Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor – speaking on behalf of the town’s Youth Mayor Shae Field, who could not be there, read poems.
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The mayor said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is about learning from the past to build a better future by promoting equality, respect and understanding.
“It was touching to have so many people join us from different cultures and religions, to remember those that have been lost in the atrocities of the Holocaust and other genocides.”