Service of reflection to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day

Published: Friday, 22nd January 2016

A Holocaust Memorial Day service of reflection will be held at 12noon on Wednesday 27 January 2016 in the Oxford Town Hall.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Rae Humberstone will be hosting a short reflection service to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day at Oxford Town Hall, 12noon, Wednesday 27 January 2016.  All members of the public are welcome to attend. 

The service is to allow members of the public and City Council employees to remember this devastating period in history and other recent genocides.  

The national theme for Holocaust Memorial Day this year is “Don’t Stand By”. 

History shows that the Holocaust and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations allowed sinister persecution to take root. Whilst some people actively supported and even enabled state policies of discrimination and persecution, the vast majority simply stood by silently – at best, afraid to speak out; and at worst indifferent. Bystanders enabled the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides.

The service offers an opportunity to learn from the past in order to create a safer, better future.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford will be joined by the  City Rector, The Very Reverend Bob Wilkes, Penny Faust, Oxford Jewish Congregation and Chair of the Oxford Council of Faiths, Imam Monawar Hussain DL , The Founder of the Oxford Foundation and representative from the Muslim Community, and Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, Councillor John Sanders

During the service we will be lighting a Yahrzeit or year time candle to commemorate the lives of the six million Jews and five million others, gypsies, disabled people, homosexuals and political prisoners who died during the Holocaust. For many of us it also serves as a memorial to victims of other genocides and carries our hopes for a better future.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Rae Humberstone said: “On Holocaust Memorial Day we remember the victims of the genocide that took place during one of the most horrific periods in history.  We also recall the victims of recent acts of genocide.  We must also remember the circumstances that allowed such atrocities to take place and reaffirm our commitment to, as the theme for this year's commemoration asks, "Don’t Stand By" and never allow a repeat of these terrible acts of inhumanity.”

Penny Faust, member of Oxford Jewish Congregation and Chair of the Oxford Council of Faiths said: “I've often wondered what I would have done if I had been an ordinary German citizen watching the rise of Nazism and seeing its consequences in the lives of Jewish neighbours or work colleagues. Would I have been able to speak up, would I have helped my neighbours to hide or leave the country?   Would I have put myself against the might of the State and risk my own job or even my life and the lives of my children? Would I have had the courage to do what I believed to be morally and ethically right?  

“And applying that same principle today at a far less dangerous level, what do we do if we hear racist or sexist abuse in the street? How do we react when we see a group of schoolchildren bullying one particular child, especially if that child is from a different ethnic group or disabled? And how can we effect change in countries where the UN suspects that genocide is occurring; what can we do?

“Holocaust Memorial Day should make us think about our individual actions against all forms of injustice, against overt racism and against verbal or physical abuse directed at specific people.  I believe that remembering on its own is not enough; it's what we do as a result that has the power to achieve change.”  

Holocaust Memorial Day has been commemorated in the UK since 2001, and in 2005 the United Nations declared 27 January as an international day for remembrance and contemplatory action. It is a day to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution and in the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur and those continuing in the Middle East today.

All are welcome to join the Lord Mayor of Oxford at the top of the main stairs in Oxford’s Town Hall to arrive by 11.45am for the service to start at 12noon.