The Mayor of London warned against any “complacency” in tackling antisemitism during the community’s main Holocaust Memorial event on Sunday.
Addressing a crowd of almost 2,000 people during the annual Yom HaShoah ceremony in Hyde Park, Sadiq Khan expressed his admiration for Holocaust survivors “triumphing over darkest adversity’, but cautioned against the growing “politics of blame and hatred” in society.
He said: “Sadly we know antisemitism is on the rise once again. This cannot be dismissed as a passing trend and we cannot be complacent.
“We know from our history where antisemitism can lead if left to fester. So in these testing times it is more important than ever that we remember the horrors of the Holocaust.”
Organisers also confirmed that next year’s ceremony will be held in a major stadium to commemorate 75 years since the end of the Holocaust.
Joining the London mayor was Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who in a moving address mourned the lack of survivors to “record stories of heroism and outright faith” which “highlighted the depth of the cruelty and the enormity of the crime of the Holocaust.”
He added: “All of us within our society must be determined- for the sake of the victims whose names are known to us and those who are not- to stamp out antisemitism once and for all.”
Other notable attendees included Marie Van der Zyl, at her first Yom HaShoah ceremony since becoming Board of Deputies President, senior leaders from all Jewish denominations, and Rabbi Barry Marcus who received an award for his contribution to Holocaust education.
The hour-and-a-half-long ceremony, hosted by Henry Grunwald, included a performance by Shir of Oyfn Pripetchik, with extracts from the Association of Jewish Refugees’ ‘My Story’ project narrated by Judge Robert Rinder and actress Laura Pradelska.
Attendees also heard from Holocaust Survivor Hannah Lewis, who recalled the horrors of witnessing her mother’s execution in Poland, but expressed gratitude for the kindness she experienced after settling in England.
“This year is 70 years since I arrived in Great Britain, which gave me a home and security. I found a country of tolerance and respect for others.
“It is my sincerest wish that society continues to remember the horrors of the Holocaust so that with respect and tolerance it can never happen again,” she concluded.
Neil Martin, Yom HaShoah UK Chair said: “Next year will mark the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Shoah, and Yom HaShoah UK are embarking on a new legacy initiative with major plans already underway, including the return of a large-scale stadium event on erev Yom HaShoah next year. We’re giving the entire community an entire year’s notice to save the date of the evening of Monday 20th April 2020 where we hope 10,000 people will remember together as one and pledge to ensure the legacy of our survivors and refugees continues for generations to come.”
Representatives of Jewish youth movements also pledged their commitment to “ensuring the Shoah retains a permanent place in the community’s memory”, promising to gather each year to memorialise the victims of the Holocaust.
Attendees also heard from a combined choir of Jewish primary school children reciting ‘Never Again’, composed and conducted by Stephen Melzack.
Sadiq Khan has attended the annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony every year since becoming Mayor of London. 2016’s ceremony was Khan’s first public engagement after taking office.