Holocaust Memorial Day brings Eastbourne together in remembrance
Residents, community leaders and speakers of all faiths came together last Thursday (January 23) to remember the six million victims of the Holocaust in a packed-out Welcome Building conference room.
Like prior events, this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was fully booked, with faith leaders and guests from across East Sussex in attendance. The event not only marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but also the 25th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide, which finally ended in 1995.
Doors opened at 6.30pm, when, after some light refreshments, guests took their seats and were welcomed by Carolyn Heaps, the faiths champion for Eastbourne Borough Council.
Opening speeches by Carolyn and mayor Steve Wallis touched upon the rapid yearly growth of the memorial event and elaborated on this year’s theme, Stand Together.
The speakers highlighted the need to remember atrocities of the past and urged guests to maintain a united front against anti-Semitism in the present.
Cllr Wallis said: “It’s very important we remember the Holocaust, subsequent genocides and the loss they represent. The loss of opportunity, the loss of life. I think these events are extremely important.”
Carolyn led the service through the lighting of eight ceremonial candles. The first six represented the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The seventh commemorated all others who suffered under the Nazi regime, as well as the Allied liberators who helped end it. The eighth candle represented a hope for future peace and understanding between people.
After a variety of other performances, including live music, poetry and a recital of The Mourner’s Kaddish - a Jewish hymn usually performed during prayer service - the event’s keynote speaker, Dorit Oliver Wolff, BEM, took to the stage to discuss her experience of the Holocaust.
Dorit, who spent her childhood fleeing Nazi persecution as a Jewish girl in Budapest, went onto become a pop star and pin-up in 1950s Germany.
During her speech, she talked about her childhood in Budapest, the long-term effects of the Holocaust, and the importance of making sure it never happens again.
At the end of her speech, she performed for the first time in years, singing two traditional Hebrew songs: Hava Nagila and Hevenu Shalom Alechem.
She said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is, to me, obviously very special. And I especially respect that so many people have come along and given up whatever it is they would usually do.
“They came and I could see on their faces that they really meant it. They were not here out of any sense of duty.”
Caroline Ansell, Conservative MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, was also in attendance.
She said: “I think it’s important the world over that we remember what took place during the Holocaust, so that we do everything within our power to make sure it never happens again.”
Also in attendance were Bede’s School, who brought parents, teachers and pupils along to pay their respects. The only local school to attend, students honoured with a copy of The Missing- The True Story of My Family in World War 2 for their library.
To find out more about Dorit Oliver Wolff’s British Empire Medal, which she received in this New Year’s Honours list, click here.
To Read Dorit’s story of survival and humanity in wartime Hungary, click here.
Dorit’s book, From Yellow Star to Pop Star and an album collecting her classic songs can be ordered from her directly by contacting [email protected]