Mayor leads local community in marking World Holocaust Day
27 January 2022
The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Graham Warke, joined with local community representatives today to light a candle in memory of the millions of innocent people who were lost during the Holocaust.
Council buildings in Derry and Strabane were illuminated in purple to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a time to reflect on the Nazis' persecution of the Jewish race, between 1941 – 1945, and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. This year the event focuses on 'One Day: A Snapshot' and the idea that even a snapshot in time may not give the full picture that is needed, but it can help bring a piece of the full picture to life and act as a starting point in working towards a better future.
The Mayor attended a special commemoration event in the Waterside Theatre, where he listened to a reading by Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor, from his acclaimed book 'I was a boy in Belsen'.
The event marked the end of a Holocaust Awareness project led by Derry City and Strabane District Council's Good Relations team and delivered by the International School for Peace Studies. The moving memorial also involved participants in the Challenging Prejudice Leadership Programme, which explored the Holocaust through a series of interactive workshops. 20 community leaders have had the opportunity to examine its origins and to address a range of key issues still prevalent in today's society, including prejudice, racism and the refugee crisis. The Programme will enable community leaders to challenge prejudice in their own communities and in doing so, become champions of diversity and Good Relations.
Speaking after today's event, Alderman Warke said it had been a moving but important opportunity to reflect on the learnings from one of the most shocking acts in modern history. "Today is such an important day across the globe, when people of all nationalities remember those whose lives were so cruelly taken from them as a result of bigotry and hatred. Hearing first hand a survivor of this terrible atrocity describing his ordeal, really brought home the fact that these crimes happened within a lifetime - they aren't the events of a distant past.
"We owe it to the victims of the Holocaust to continue to find better ways of tackling hatred and prejudice in our own communities, and to ensure that their legacy is a kinder and more harmonious society for all of us."
The Challenging Prejudice Leadership Programme involved a series of workshops, and participants will also have the opportunity to take part in a study visit to concentration camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on 2nd February.
Good Relations Officer with Council, Amanda Biega, said: "It is vital that we learn from the past so as not to repeat these atrocities in the future. The path to genocide cannot be underestimated. It can go unnoticed and can be swift, beginning with what people would consider relatively trivial occurrences such as jokes and ridicule, quickly transforming into the dehumanization of a community, resulting in persecution and ultimately genocide."
Speaking on behalf of the International School for Peace Studies, Jackie Barr said: "After taking part in the Council's Challenging Prejudice Leadership Programme in 2019-20 I could see just how many elements of the Programme are relevant to society here. We decided to deliver this project to create and develop awareness of hate and prejudice in our society and the disastrous consequences it can have. Today is the culmination of that work and the hard work of all the project participants."
Shirley Lennon, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, N. Ireland, thanked local people for their support saying: "Thank you so much for Lighting the Darkness with us on Holocaust Memorial Day. Your support will be a part of the big national picture and will mean a great deal to survivors of genocide and those facing identity-based persecution today."