Holocaust Memorial Day is a day for education, commemoration and reflection: to think deeply about what happened to countless individuals, how small actions escalated to acts of organised hate crime and ultimately genocide. And what we need to do today both to keep the memory alive and build societies that resist this kind of discrimination and all forms of identity-based violence. Here in Bristol, we look at these issues throughout the year, not just in January.
Holocaust Memorial Day falls on January 27th every year, which is the date when the death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated in 1945. The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 is ‘Torn From Home’. In 2018 it was ‘The Power Of Words’; the 2017 theme was ‘How can life go on?’; in 2016 it was ‘Don’t Stand By’.
Because Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 fell on a Sunday, Bristol’s civic commemoration event took place on Friday 25th January 2018 to ensure that all religious groups could attend.
The civic commemoration was held on Friday January 25th 2019 from 1.30 – 4.45 pm at City Hall, College Green, Bristol.
- Speakers from diverse communities shared reflections on the HMD 2019 theme, ‘Torn from Home.’ Our headline speaker for HMD 2019 was Iby Knill, who shared her incredible story as a Holocaust survivor.
- Our stallholders represented local charities that work with refugees, or people who have experienced racism, discrimination and war.
- We held a workshop on ‘Torn from Home’, asking attendees to think about the items they would pack in a suitcase if they had to urgently leave their home with no knowing when they would return.
- The event was free and accessible for wheelchair users. We also provided a BSL interpreter and a hearing loop.
Our main speaker, Iby Knill, travelled down from Leeds to speak at this event, and it was a privilege to welcome her and her daughter to Bristol. Iby survived imprisonment for her resistance activities, then was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. She was later sent on a slave labour transport to Lippstadt. and was finally liberated by American soldiers during a death march to Bergen-Belsen in Easter 1945.
Iby has written two memoirs about her life, and local bookseller Max Minerva’s hosted a pop-up bookshop at City Hall during the commemoration event so that people could buy signed copies of the books.
Councillor Asher Craig (Deputy Mayor of Bristol), and HM Vice Lord Lieutenant Dr. Tim Chambers OBE also spoke at the event about the need to mark HMD and to support those fleeing persecution and needing sanctuary in our community.
We also had a range of speakers from local sixth forms, talking about their experiences of the Lessons from Auschwitz education programme.
The event closed with reflections from Father Richard McKay, from St. Nicholas Church of Tolentino in Easton. Father Richard asked attendees to write pledges explaining what they would do to spread the message of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Iby Knill spoke to local media about the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day. She was interviewed by Jonathan Ray for BBC Radio Bristol, and appeared in ITV West Country’s report on the HMD 2019 event, along with our steering group chair, Marian Liebmann.
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, wrote on the Mayor’s blog about the HMD civic commemoration and the work being done by Bristol community groups, charities and local government to support refugees and asylum seekers, including those fleeing Syria.
Bristol HMD Steering Group
Twitter: @BristolHMD #BristolHMD #HMD2019