The Mayor of London Boris Johnson was joined by Members of the London Assembly, MPs, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and Holocaust survivors today at the annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at City Hall. The poignant ceremony commemorated victims of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide, and was especially moving as it marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia. After the event was opened by Roger Evans, Chair of the London Assembly, the Mayor of London gave a reading from the notebook of a Jewish captive at Auschwitz, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis addressed the audience with a memorial prayer.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "Seventy years on from the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, today we remember the millions of people who lost their lives in both the Holocaust and in subsequent sickening acts of genocide. In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, and as we face an increased threat to our own security, it is more important than ever that we stand strong in our beliefs of tolerance and freedom of speech, and learn from the atrocities of the past. London's success is built on the diverse communities who live here, and has long been a safe refuge for all those who are persecuted, with many thousands of Holocaust survivors making it their home. London will continue to provide this safe haven. We will not abide prejudice, and stand united against all those who threaten our peace and security."
Roger Evans, Chair of the London Assembly, said: "The recent heightened tensions have focused our minds firmly on past horrors. 70 years on from the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau during the Second World War and 20 years on from the anniversary of the Genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia - we must keep the memory alive. In the name of all those who suffered historically and recently, we shall continue to fight bigotry, prejudice and intolerance to ensure such atrocities are not allowed to happen again."
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: "I am honoured to be attending the Greater London Authority's Memorial event with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and survivors from both the Holocaust and the Bosnian Genocide. Today we commemorate 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It remains essential to educate future generations about the atrocities committed, which remain a stain on the conscience of human history. The hatred and evil that inspired the Holocaust still exists today, which makes it all the more important to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive."
Those gathered also heard emotional accounts from Holocaust survivor Freda Wineman and Safet Vukalic, who survived genocide in Bosnia. 16 year-old Freda and her family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1939, where she spent five years, before being moved to various other concentration camps including Bergen-Belsen. She finally ended up in Theresienstadt, from where she was liberated by the Russian army on 9th May 1945, only to discover that both her parents and one of her brothers had been killed in Auschwitz. Bosnian Muslim Safet Vukalic survived ethnic cleansing in Prijedor, Bosnia. His father and brother were taken by the Bosnian Serb army and transported to concentration camps, where they stayed from 1992-3. Having survived the atrocities there, they were eventually released, and Safet and his family re-located to the UK.
The ceremony also featured London schoolchildren, who presented their 'Lessons from Auschwitz' project, delivered by the Holocaust Educational Trust, and singer Rachel Weston, who performed a selection of Yiddish songs.