Thursday 30 January 2014

Holocaust Memorial Day

The art installation at the Minster was a truly heart shattering experience. For the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration, artist Barrie West has created a gut wrenching piece of work, with a breeze block smashing a sheet of glass over a picture of a small girl.

The piece was a dramatic nod to the 'Kristallnacht', when in November 1938, in Germany and Austria, Jewish homes, shops and Synagogues were destroyed. 'The night of broken glass' was the orchestrated start of the annihilation of the Jewish people by the Nazi's. On that first night, at least 91 Jews were killed and 30,000 were rounded up for the concentration camps.

The Minster Yurt was full of shoes heaped in a pile, representing the 6 million who died in the camps. The shoes were surrounded by pictures of Auschwitz, Belsen and Dachau. It was harrowing but moving, particularly as music by Gorecki played gently in the background. I sat there with Tony, one of the few remaining Jews in Sunderland. He sat in silence, and outside revealed that one side of his family disappeared completely in the camps.

Some have argued that Holocaust events deflect attention and take away from the reality of how the Jewish authorities are dealing with the Palestinians. I disagree. Whenever horrors against humanity rear their ugly head, we need to expose them and remember them, in the attempt to make sure that they never reoccur. Exposing Hitler's genocide give us an opportunity to understand why Jewish people are so protective of what they see as their 'Homeland'. If we have no understanding of this, then we will never achieve the dialogue we need in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Thank you to Barrie, and all who helped put this moving memorial service together, so that we can say together 'Never Again'

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