Barking and Dagenham marks Holocaust Memorial Day

Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Barking and Dagenham has marked Holocaust Memorial Day. Pictured is a scene from the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

The importance of Holocaust Memorial Day is to learn the lessons of the terrible genocide and remember.

That was the message from Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who was speaking as the borough marked the annual event today (January 27).

The theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day is 'Be the light in the darkness'.

In a video posted online, the Jewish member of parliament shared a story of her Viennese grandmother who was killed during the genocide of European Jews from 1941-45.

Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking

Margaret Hodge will do all she can to encourage the government to roll out the vaccine as quickly as possible - Credit: Parliament

Dame Margaret said: "I lost a lot of relatives during the Holocaust. But one of the most poignant stories is about my grandmother.

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"She was 55 when the war broke out. She could have got out of Austria, but she thought she was too old and Hitler would leave her alone."

The Labour politician explained how her relative declined every opportunity to leave Austria.

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When the Nazis overran the country, her grandmother lost her home, was forced to wear a Star of David on her clothes and was taxed massive amounts. 

"She watched each week as thousands of Jews were marched out of Vienna, and finally, they came for her," Dame Margaret said.

She recalled how her grandmother was later shot and killed in a trench outside a camp in Lithuania.

Ten days before she was transported there, she sent a letter to her son urging him twice not to forget her completely.

Dame Margaret said: "For me that is the lightness and the darkness. I will never forget her and what she went through and I think none of us should.

"That's the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day. It's to ensure we really do remember and learn the lessons of the terrible Holocaust that took place."

The service of remembrance to mark Holocaust Memorial Day outside of Barking Town Hall. Rabbi Gluck

Rabbi Gluck speaking to an audience at the borough's Holocaust Memorial Day service in 2019. - Credit: Ken Mears

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE shared a memorial prayer during the video to the six million men, women and children who were shot, gassed, burned and buried alive in the forests, concentration and death camps.

Himanshu Jain, of Barking and Dagenham Faith Forum, spoke of the need to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and genocides since, including those in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.

Town hall deputy leader, Cllr Saima Ashraf, warned that even during the challenges of the Covid pandemic, there are still those who seek to promote hatred.

"The global challenge reminds us of the need to have humanity above anything else," she said.

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