YOUNG people took centre stage to lead the tributes in Saddleworth to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
On January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp – the community gathered for a vigil in Uppermill Square.
Organised by Saddleworth Peace Group, the event was attended by councillors, special guests, locals and members of Oldham Youth Council and Oldham Theatre Workshop.
The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 was ‘torn from home’, encouraging people to reflect on how the enforced loss of a safe place is part of the trauma faced by anyone experiencing persecution and genocide.
Magda Sachs, Saddleworth Peace Group member, told the gathering: “A recent survey showed one in 20 people do not believe the Holocaust happened.
“This is why we need to hold these events and remember the things that took place. It shows we cannot be complacent.
“Home is a very important concept for everyone. We should think about the welcome we can give people who have come here and are trying to make a new home.”
The Mayorof Oldham Cllr Javid Iqbal, accompanied by his wife Mayoress Tasleem Akhtar, said he was honoured to be at such an important event.
“We must remember our brothers and sisters around the world,” he added. “People are being victimised for their beliefs and we need to stand together against that.
“We must remember the violence and atrocities that have happened and pass on the message to our younger generations.”
MP Debbie Abrahams added: “It is so important to have events like this to remember what has happened and make sure it does not happen again.
“We should be bound together by common values of humanity, love, humility, respect and tolerance of differences.”
And Saddleworth Parish Council chairman Cllr Rob Knotts, who attended with wife Lesley, urged people to learn from the lessons of the past.
“We are stood here today and it is bitterly cold but think of all the people who were dragged from their homes, crammed into cattle trains and transported to concentration camps, living in unbearable conditions and being dehumanised,” he said
“We need to make people aware of history so that it does not happen again. We are all entitled to living how we want with our own beliefs as fellow human beings.”
There was a silent vigil for reflection before the group read together the statement of commitment for peace and tolerance.
Then guests gathered in the Methodist Church Hall for refreshments and to listen to the experiences of a group of young people who recently visited Poland.
About 20 members of Oldham Youth Council and Oldham Theatre Workshop went on the six-day trip to develop their understanding of the Holocaust.
They visited Krakow and Auschwitz concentration camps, and recorded their experiences through creative writing, poetry, and music which they shared at the vigil event.
The group bore the slogan ‘listen to the earth’ on their jumpers, inspired by one of the nuns they met on their trip,
Craig Harris, who has taken about 200 young people on the trip over the last 10 years, said: “We want young people to learn from the past to create a better future.
“We are really proud of what they have done and we know they have come back different people because of the experience. It is so important as they are our leaders of the future.”
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place every year on January 27 to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Find out more about Saddleworth Peace Group on their Facebook page.