Hackney marked international Holocaust Memorial Day with a moving ceremony at the Town Hall on Monday (29 January).
The theme for the event, hosted by Speaker of Hackney Cllr Soraya Adejare and attended by Mayor Philip Glanville, was ‘the power of words’.
Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg, 87, spoke about his dehumanising experience as a prisoner of the Nazis.
He told guests: “We even lost our names, all we had was a number for identification. Mine is still deeply ingrained in my mind, 56478. Through it all though, I never lost my determination to survive.”
Goldberg said he has struggled in the past to talk about his trauma, but feels it is important for survivors to speak out in the face of rising antisemitism.
Alongside his account, a choir made up of pupils from Simon Marks Jewish Primary School and the Olive School, a Muslim faith school, sang Michael Jackson’s Heal the World.
Mayor Glanville also paid homage to Yiddish actor, scholar and teacher Barry Davis, who died in December aged 72.
Davis publicised the work of many persecuted poets and writers, particularly during his time as Yiddish editor of the Jewish Quarterly in the 1980s.
Guests also heard a rendition of Prayer (Ernest Bloch) by the SALZ Quartet and moving presentations from local school students, including a reading of Primo Levi’s Shelma by Darren King, a student at Urswick School.
A very moving @hackneycouncil #HolocaustMemorialDay today w/ schools from across Hackney taking part. I pay particular tribute to @hackneyspeaker who led the event so powerfully & survivor Mr Manfield Goldberg who spoke about his devastating direct experience of the Holocaust. https://t.co/hZvxpbeEQN
— Mayor of Hackney (@mayorofhackney) January 29, 2018
After the ceremony, Speaker Adejare and some of the students who had taken part placed flowers at the Holocaust memorial in Hackney Town Hall Square.
Adejare said: “The Holocaust was a defining event in human history – its legacies continue to shape the modern world whilst the challenging questions it raises about human behaviour have universal relevance.
“In marking Holocaust Memorial Day we are provided with scope to unify our voices in calling for an end to racial, ethnic, religious, disability, gender and sexuality-based violence and oppression.”
Glanville later paid tribute to Speaker Adejare on Twitter for leading the event “so powerfully”.