Newham

Hundreds remember victims of the Holocaust

27 January 2015 in Council and democracy and Events and Mayor
More than 400 residents, schoolchildren, Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales and Newham councillors gathered today (27 January) to light candles to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
John Biggs AM, Lyn Brown MP, John Barber Esq Deputy Lieutenant, Rudi Oppenheimer, Sir Robin Wales, and David Gold, with pupis
There was standing room only at the event at the Old Town Hall, Stratford, which featured Holocaust survivor, 83-year-old Rudi Oppenheimer, sharing his story.
 
The theme of this year’s HMD event was Keep the Memory Alive. It took place on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
 
Mr Oppenheimer, who was born in Berlin in 1931, had moved to Holland in 1936. In 1943 he and his parents and siblings were rounded up by the German troops and incarcerated in Westerbork, a transit camp in the north east of Holland.
 
In February 1944 the family were moved to the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany where they lived in barracks within electrified fences and endured roll calls that involved standing for hours outside during the height of winter. In April 1945 Rudi and his brother were put on a train out of the camp because the Germans wanted to keep some Jews as hostages. After being on the train for two weeks, travelling 500 miles, they were liberated by the Red Army.
 
Mr Oppenheimer told the audience: “The reason I keep the memory of the Holocaust alive is because there are still atrocities happening in the world, not to Jews but to people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 
“The reason I like living in Britain is because you can speak up for whatever you want. I keep telling people if you disagree with something you should speak up and protest. You might get your way, you might not, but there are lots of places in the world where you cannot speak up. If you feel injustice is being done the speak up. That way people will listen. Had they spoken up in Germany, the Holocaust may never have happened.”
 
The event also included readings from pupils from Kensington Primary School, Manor Park, and Kingsford Community School, Beckton, and a dance performance by pupils from Lister Community School, Plaistow. Members of Newham’s Every Child a Musician programme’s Stars Orchestra and Choir also performed.
 
Six candles were lit by Mr Oppenheimer; Mayor Sir Robin Wales; David Gold, chairman of West Ham United; West Ham MP Lyn Brown; John Biggs, London  Assembly member for City and East; and John Barber, Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Newham, to remember the six million Jewish men, women and children who had perished by the end of the Holocaust.
 
Pupils and staff from more than 30 schools across the borough attended the event. They were asked to leave their messages on a special memory wall that had been created.
 
Mayor Sir Robin Wales said: “Stories like Rudi’s help us to remember that there are real people behind the numbers. I want to challenge you all today to go out into the world and behave in a way that celebrates diversity. That is one way we can keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and honour those who died all those years ago.”