To mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, the FCO today hosted an event with the Embassy of Israel. Over 100 people, many of them from London-based embassies and high commissions, heard the UK’s Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues, Sir Andrew Burns, and Israeli Ambassador, Daniel Taub, recall the terrible events of the Holocaust and encourage those present to reflect on how prejudice and discrimination can lead to genocide.
During the event relatives of three individuals who saved Jews fleeing the Holocaust were presented with a special ‘Righteous of the Nations’ award by Ambassador Taub. Among them was Elsie Tilney, who gave shelter to a one-year old Jewish girl, Ruth Buchholz, and who helped to save Polish Jews who were in danger of being deported to the death camps. Elsie, who was born in Norwich in 1893, had served as a missionary in North Africa, France and Austria before being interned in a Prisoner of War Camp at Vittel as a ‘citizen of an enemy country’.
Also honoured were a Lithuanian man, Kazys Janavicius and his mother, Vanda Janaviciene, who between them saved Lilly Winterfield by giving her a false Lithuanian birth certificate and hiding her at their homes and with friends until the war ended. Gaila Leahy, Mr Janavicius’s daughter, received the award on behalf of her father and grandmother.
Closing the event Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood spoke of his personal reflections on the Holocaust and the importance of ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust lives on.
Commenting after the event Mr Ellwood said:
I would like to pay tribute to those survivors who received special awards today for their brave actions in saving Jews during the Holocaust. It also is vital that we remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity’s common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.
It is important that we remember the events of the past and ensure that we never forget them which is why we are promoting international co-operation in Holocaust education and ensuring that future generations can learn the lessons of the Holocaust.
The event also featured the Jewish prayer for the souls of the departed, delivered by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and speeches from Professor Sergio Della Pergola, a Holocaust survivor from Israel.
The UK’s Envoy for Post Holocaust Issues, Sir Andrew Burns, currently chair of the 31-nation International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, spoke of the necessity of educating our children in diversity of religion, diversity of culture, and diversity of opinion. He stressed the importance of learning lessons from the past and of working towards a fair and just society.
Israeli Ambassador, Daniel Taub thanked the British Government for its efforts to support Holocaust education and combat anti-Semitism.
The Ambassador emphasised the importance of ensuring that future generations understand the magnitude of the persecution, and remain resolute in confronting new forms of violent hatred.
Ambassador Taub said:
As we near the point when there will no longer be members of the generation that endured the horrors of the Holocaust left among us, we have a duty to redouble our efforts to listen to their stories, so that we too become witnesses. At a time when tragically anti-Semitism is resurfacing in Europe, the lessons these stories convey are as critical as ever.
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