On 27th January each year Scotland holds a national Holocaust Memorial Day event to honour the memory of those who suffered and perished under the Nazi persecutions during World War II, and subsequent genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.
The day offers an opportunity to join millions of others across the world to come together to pause, to remember and to reflect on what we need to do to create a future free from the dangers of racist violence and discrimination.
Hosting the National Holocaust Memorial for Scotland is always a great honour for Interfaith Scotland and The Power of Words was an important theme to frame the Memorial around. Prior to the event, Dr. Lev Atlas, a Russian musician from Rostov-on-Don, approached Interfaith Scotland to ask if the Memorial could focus on the historical massacre in his hometown. Over the course of a few days in August 1942, 27,000 people were massacred by the Nazis in Rostov-on-Don, the majority of whom were Jewish. Dr Atlas and his wife Julia felt it was an important story to be told. Rostov-on-Don is linked to Glasgow through a Glasgow City Council twinning project and the Lord Provost’s Office supported Interfaith Scotland in the decision to focus the Memorial on the massacre.
The main event took place on 24th January in Glasgow Caledonian University and was attended by the Lord Provost of Glasgow and the First Minister of Scotland. Both spoke of their commitment to remembering the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The story of the massacre in Rostov-on-Don was told through the voices of Dr. Christina Winkler, a renowned historian on the massacre; through the personal account of Julia Atlas who lost five family members in Rostov; and through a specially commissioned video interview with the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Lau. The latter told the profoundly moving story of how he was kept alive and rescued by a young teenage boy from Rostov on Don, Feodor Mikhailichenko. Scotland was honoured to have the surviving daughter of Feodor present at the Memorial.
Additional Holocaust Memorial Events
Interfaith Scotland was responsible for ensuring that two exhibitions were on display throughout the week of HMD2018. In Glasgow Caledonian University, to complement the main memorial event, a newly created exhibition outlining what had happened in Rostov on Don was on display and was visited by school children from Glasgow. Additionally the Scottish exhibition, ‘Gathering the Voices’, was on display in the Glasgow City Chambers and was visited by staff of the City Council and the general public.
Shawland’s Academy also hosted the Anne Frank exhibition; a schools conference was held at St. Mungo Museum; and the main event for Glasgow schools was held in the City Chambers. Appropriate films were shown at the Glasgow Film Theatre and one of the highlights of the week was a specially commissioned musical performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Glasgow.
Throughout the week Interfaith Scotland hosted a Russian historian, lawyer, archivist and Rabbi from Rostov. Each of these men had worked most of their adult lives to tell the story of Rostov on Don and it was a great honour to have them present when Scotland was able to appropriately remember the massacre of the Jewish population of Rostov-on-Don. These Russian experts were able to visit the Jewish Archives in Garnethill to share experiences of recording history and keeping alive the memory of those who suffered so much.
Interfaith Scotland worked in partnership with East Dunbartonshire Council to host the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative event, which took
place in Bishopbriggs on 26th January 2017.
The theme for 2017 was 'How can life go on'. The aftermath of the Holocaust and of subsequent genocides continues to raise challenging questions for individuals, communities and nations. This year we asked people to think about what happens after genocide and of our own responsibilities in the wake of such a crime. Author and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has said:
'For the survivor death is not the problem. Death was an everyday occurrence. We learned to live with Death. The problem is to adjust to life, to living. You must teach us about living.'
The key note speakers for 2017 were Saskia Tepe who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and author of ‘Surviving Brigitte’s Secrets’, which tells of her mother’s journey after liberation and Umetesi Stewart, who is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, now living in Scotland. Saskia and Umetesi spent several days speaking to hundreds of school pupils in Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh and East Renfrewshire, as well as visiting and speaking at the Scottish Jewish Archive Centre, Low Moss prison and holding workshops at a youth conference at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow. Interfaith Scotland also worked in partnership with Glasgow University to host an Interfaith Peace Service in the University Chapel on Sunday 22nd January.
You can read more about the Holocaust Memorial Day on Interfaith Scotland's blog: https://interfaithscotland.wordpress.com/
For an archive of Holocaust Memorial Day events and speakers from 2013 - 2016 please click here.
Our blog can be found at https://interfaithscotland.wordpress.com
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