30th Jun, 2022

Holocaust Memorial Day - All you need to know about Coventry's commemoration at Drapers' Hall

COVENTRY’S Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations will take place at the new-look Drapers’ Hall in the city centre at 11.45am on Thursday, January 27.

Everyone is welcome to the free event but people need to reserve places, wear face coverings and observe social distancing.

Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to reflect on atrocities in the past and how everyone can play our part in preventing future hatred and intolerance.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘One Day’.

The day is important in Coventry as it strives to be a city of peace and reconciliation, promoting these principles around the world.

The event starts with a welcome from the Deputy Leader of Coventry City Council, Coun Abdul Salam Khan, followed by the Lord Mayor of Coventry, Coun John McNicholas reflecting on Coventry’s long history of reaching out to other cities in war and peace and our leading role as a city of peace and reconciliation throughout the world.

Guest speaker Joanna Millan BEM, will address the room via a video message with her story, hopes and thoughts.

Joanna was born Bela Rosenthal in Berlin in August 1942.

Her father was taken from the streets of Berlin, sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and murdered.

Bela and her mother were taken from their home and sent to the Terezin Ghetto north of Prague.

When she was 18 months old, her mother contracted tuberculosis due to the conditions in the camp leaving Bela orphaned and alone.

Looked after by some of the women in the camp Bela survived and eventually in August 1945 Bela was flown to England where Bela, her name now changed to Joanna, was told to forget her past and forbidden to contact the other child survivors.

When Joanna was in her early 40s she was contacted by an American academic who had read a study about Joanna and the other five youngest survivors of Terezin, which led to her going on an extraordinary and difficult path of discovering her past.

She speaks regularly today about her experiences.

The event continues with Coventry City Council’s choir performing Eli, Eli written by Hannah Senesh (a heroic young Jewish woman executed by the Nazis).

The choir will be followed by a reading about the Ukrainian Holodomor by Mr Roman Leszczyszyn. The Holodomor, also known as the Terror-Famine or the Great Famine, was a famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians.

Next, students from Eden Girls School in the city, will read poems specifically written for Holocaust Memorial Day by themselves.

A musical interlude then takes place with a piano piece performed by Coventry Music.

Representatives from Coventry University Students’ Union then reflect on how teachings of the past can be used to inform and help make communities stronger and safer.

The final words and lighting of the candle will come from the Deputy Leader of Coventry City Council, Coun Abdul Salam Khan.

He said: “We are known throughout the world as a welcoming city of peace where people of all races and religions are welcome. Holocaust Memorial Day is always a very important event to Coventry and to the people of the city.”

“Many of the people we have welcomed and continue to welcome here, have escaped persecution in their home countries and I am proud of the contribution and support we have made to help people make Coventry their new home.”

Coun McNicholas, added: “I’m proud of the fact that Coventry is a city synonymous with peace and reconciliation right across the world, so hosting our own event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 remains an important date in the city’s civic diary.

“I hope people will join us at this event to remember and highlight the part we all can play in working towards peace, tackling injustice and help prevent future atrocities across the world.”

Holocaust Memorial Day was founded 22 years ago, when 46 governments committed to preserving the memory of those who died in the Holocaust.

It is a day when thse who lost their lives during those dark times and subsequent genocides around the world are remembered and their stories are told to ensure they are never forgotten.

But is also a day when our world today is examined and the world we want it to be in the years ahead.

Tickets can be booked at www.coventry.gov.uk/hmd via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/holocaust-memorial-day-tickets-245766543347

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