Holocaust Memorial Day 2019: Concentration camp survivor Harry Olmer, 91, leads Newham’s commemorations

Pupils from a number of Newham schools were there.

Pupils from a number of Newham schools were there. - Credit: Archant

Young people need to know what can happen if a stand isn’t taken against racism, prejudice and hate.

Pupils from a number of Newham schools were there.

Pupils from a number of Newham schools were there. - Credit: Archant

That was the message from concentration camp survivor Harry Olmer BEM speaking at East Ham Town Hall to mark this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Olmer said: “It is vital that children and young people have an understanding of what can happen if we do not stand up to racism, prejudice or hate against those that are different by race or religion.”

The Polish-born 91-year-old was 12 when the Second World War started. He survived the horrors of five labour and concentration camps during the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews.

The last time he saw his mother and sisters was when he and his brother were separated from them in 1942.

The theme of this year’s commemoration was Torn From Home.

Around 400 people including schoolchildren reflected on how the loss of a safe place to call home was part of the trauma faced by anyone experiencing persecution.

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Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, said: “The Holocaust was an unparalleled human tragedy and act of evil.

“As we remember those who suffered and died, we must unite against all forms of hatred and persecution wherever it exists to make sure an atrocity like the Holocaust never happens again.”

The choir from Quwwat-ul-Islam Girls School in Forest Gate opened the borough’s commemorations with a performance of the song One Day.

Newham music ensemble Klezmer Bridging Sounds Orchestra performed Gelem Gelem, an anthem of the Roma people murdered in the Holocaust.

The 282 Squadron RAF Cadets Band from East Ham performed Abide With Me.

Pupils from St Luke’s Primary School, New City Primary School, Essex Primary School, Lathom Junior School, St Stephen’s Primary School, Kingsford Community School and Sir John Heron Primary School also spoke.

Six candles were then lit in memory of the six million people who lost their lives in the Holocaust and further genocides. Adnan Khan, 17, a survivor of persecution in Afghanistan, lit one of the six.

Mayor Fiaz ended by saying: “We must honour those who suffered and died by remembering their stories. We must honour them by learning from the past, speaking up against hatred and making our neighbourhoods places where people of all backgrounds can call home.”