More than 1,200 people gathered in Hyde Park today to hear a message of ‘defiance’ at the annual Yom Hashoah commemoration.
The community’s main Holocaust Memorial event saw Sadiq Khan issuing a warning about allowing “intolerance and hatred to fester” in society.
The London mayor was joined by Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev and the Chief Rabbi, at the occasion which marks 75 years since the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
In a powerful statement, addressing guests at the National Holocaust Memorial Gardens, Khan said: “We must confront the reality around the world, anti-Semitism and hate crime is on the rise again.”
Jewish communities are feeling unsafe within this very country, within this very city. This is completely unacceptable and mustn’t go unchecked”
He added “if we’re not careful, we can go backwards when we allow intolerance and hatred to fester.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis urged strong political leadership in tackling anti-Semitism, as he reflected on acts of defiance during the Holocaust.
He said: “Responsible leadership is always necessary to fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism and all evils within our society. We are witnessing a worrying increase of anti-Semitic sentiment and activity throughout the continent, including here in Britain.
“The call of the hour is for strong, solid and responsible leadership to take on anti-Semitism. To send out the right tone of message, that will strive to get rid of this evil in our society,” he said.
This this is the time for “every political leader to send a clear and unequivocal message that anti-Semitism in all of its forms will not be tolerated any more.”
Meanwhile, Israeli envoy to the UK Mark Regev take aim at those who “profess solidarity with the victims of the Holocaust… who claim to stand against anti-Semitism and oppose racism in all its forms.
He said it’s “all too easy to express pity for the oppressed Jew”, and asked whether “some people have a problem with the fact that the Jews have decided to be the victim no more.”
Regev said: “to all those who call for Israel’s destruction, whether it’s the regime in Iran, or its terrorist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, or those who express solidarity with them in this very country, I say this: we will protect ourselves physically.. verbally.. and will continue to call out those who turned a blind eye in the face of anti-Jewish bigotry.’
The hour long ceremony, hosted by Henry Grunwald, featured Game of Thrones actress Laura Pradelska, who recalled the stories of each of her four grandparents, who all survived the Holocaust.
Guests also heard the unknown story of AJEX executive director and Yom HaShoah UK vice-president Jacques Weisser, who was smuggled out of Belgium as a child by his mother before she was taken to Auschwitz and killed. Holocaust Survivor Gena Turgel also addressed guests with her testimony, including how she met her husband upon liberation from Bergen-Belsen.
The free event, which was run by Yom HaShoah UK and ran the theme that of ‘defiance’, it included songs, readings and performances from combined male voice choirs and well as the choirs of Jewish primary schools