Child survivor of concentration camps speaks out on Holocaust Memorial Day

The Newham Every Child A Musician Chamber Orchestra played two pieces at Holocaust Memorial Day

The Newham Every Child A Musician Chamber Orchestra played two pieces at Holocaust Memorial Day - Credit: Archant

Holocaust Memorial Day was marked today at Stratford Old Town Hall in front of a crowd of more than 400 people, as both the Mayor and a Holocaust survivor condemned ongoing atrocities around the world.

The event, organised by Newham Council, featured a talk by Harry Olmer, 90, about his time in five concentration camps.

Harry and his family were imprisoned for being Jewish in 1942, when Harry was just 12.

His parents were killed and after three years of back-breaking labour, Harry was finally liberated and brought to the UK as part of a programme to give homes to the children of the camps.

After sharing his memories, he said: “Unfortunately the Holocaust wasn’t the only atrocity. We thought what had happened would never happen again but we can see it happening.”

He cited ethnic cleansing in Darfur and the Killing Fields of Cambodia before comparing the atrocities in Syria and the need to accept child refugees to his own rescue from the horrors of war.

“There’s no doubt about it that genuine refugees should be allowed into the country,” the retired dentist and soldier said.

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“The children should definitely be allowed to come here – not for too long because their own countries will be rebuilt – but the children should come here for a better life the same as I have.

Sir Robin Wales also made a moving speech in a similar vein, comparing the government’s handling of past and current atrocities.

The Mayor of Newham said: “During World War II, this city and this country came to the aid of thousands of Jewish children escaping Nazism through the Kindertransport, but it is absolutely undeniable that the British Government did too little to prevent and alleviate suffering during the Holocaust.”

Sir Robin Wales referred to restrictions on Jewish immigration to Britain in the 1930s as “a permanent stain” on the conscience of the country, and said that Newham “absolutely stands ready to do our bit and to do our share” with the current refugee crisis from Syria.

The borough is currently home to five Syrian refugee families, and will soon welcome five more.

The annual event also featured musical performances from the Newham Every Child A Musician Chamber Orchestra, and as well as readings from school pupils, a candle-lighting ceremoney, and a minute of quiet reflection.