Newham

Holocaust survivor joins Newham residents to remember genocide victims

27 January 2017 in Events
The victims of the Holocaust and other genocides across the world were remembered at a special event today (Friday 27 January) attended by the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, and Holocaust survivor Harry Olmer.
More than 400 people including schoolchildren and local residents attended Newham Council’s annual event at Old Town Hall, Stratford, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Candles were lit, a minute’s silence held and there was also a performance by Newham’s Every Child a Musician Orchestra.
 
As part of the event, 90-year-old Harry Olmer outlined his memories of the Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust and shared his experiences which included surviving five concentration camps – including Plaszow near Krakow which later became famous in the movie Schindler’s List.
 
He was also forced to work in a munitions factory filling shells with explosives and last saw his mother and sisters after he, his brother and father were separated from them in 1942.
 
Harry, who was one of six children, was born in Sonsowiec, Poland, in 1927. He told those at today’s event that one of his earliest memories of the war was from 1942 when 650 people were taken to a wood and shot.
 
He said: “I was in a truck with a lot of other people and could hear the shooting. We had a woman who started screaming, so they stopped the truck and shot her. They separated all the women and children, and they were put on wagons and taken away. That was the last time I saw my mother and my sisters. The trains took all the women and I did not have time to say goodbye.”
 
Harry, a retired dentist, is now one of a handful of Holocaust survivors who visit schools to tell their stories. He said: “People say it can’t happen again but it did, in Cambodia, in Europe, Serbia and now, as we are seeing, in Syria with Aleppo. That is why I talk to the schoolchildren, so they can hear the story. It is my story, it is living history.”
 
Harry also took part in a question and answer session and received a standing ovation after his talk.
 
The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 was How Can Life Go On?  with candles lit at the event in memory of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust and other genocides.
 
Among those who lit the candles were Sir Robin Wales; Harry Olmer; the Chair of the Council Councillor Joy Laguda MBE,  Newham Council Chief Executive Kim Bromley-Derry; the Queen’s Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Newham, John Barber; and the Young Mayor of Newham, Khadija Sethi.
 
There were also performances of poems and songs from schoolchildren from Plashet School, St Joachim’s Catholic Primary School, Essex Primary School, Tollgate Primary School, Chobham Academy, and Oasis Academy.
 
Sir Robin said: “The importance of Holocaust Memorial Day can be seen from some of the events of 2016 in America, Syria, Europe and the tragic murder of Jo Cox in West Yorkshire.
 
“I believe in Newham’s values of trust, fairness and solidarity. This is the most diverse place in the country and potentially the world. We don’t view our diversity as a weakness but as a strength that enriches our community and enables us to be more than the sum of our parts. We thrive because of and not in spite of our differences.
 
“We have to be clear hate will not stand in Newham. It is our job to stand up to intolerance and prejudice wherever we find it, in the playground, workplace or on our streets.”