Holocaust survivors light candles in London to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

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Holocaust survivors have gathered in central London to light candles and remember the victims of genocide on Holocaust Memorial Day.

A group of nearly 30 survivors and their families stood on the steps of Piccadilly Circus holding flickering candles to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, as well as the millions of other groups killed under Nazi persecution.

The day is also used to remember the millions killed in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The group looked up at the landmark junction’s giant billboards, where portraits of them and fellow survivors were displayed.

A film was also screened showing people, including leaders of politics and religion, lighting candles to mark the day.

One of the photographs, taken by the Duchess of Cambridge, showed survivor Steven Frank.

Born in the Netherlands, Mr Frank was one of only 93 children who survived the Theresienstadt ghetto camp out of the 15,000 children who were sent there.

His father, an eminent lawyer, was active in the Dutch resistance when the country was under Nazi occupation.

Mr Frank, now in his late 80s, told the PA news agency: “And then one day he went to the office to go to work, and he’d been betrayed, and he was taken away.

“So he ended up in prison, where we know he was tortured, badly beaten, from where he was taken to Westerbork, and from Westerbork to Auschwitz where he was murdered in the gas chambers on January 21, 1943.

“So very, very close to Holocaust Memorial Day, which is so very, very special for me.”

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Six hundred candles in the shape of the Star of David at York Minster (Danny Lawson/PA)

(PA Wire)

The portrait of Mr Frank showed him with a pot, in tribute to his mother who, while working in Theresienstadt, collected crumbs that she made into a paste to feed her children.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke of the event’s significance.

She said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is such an important day for everybody in the country to come together and we’re doing so at a time when the world can feel quite fragile and we can quit feel quite vulnerable to division and hostility.

“We only saw yesterday an anti-Semitic attack with two people being assaulted.

“And that can leave people feeling particularly vulnerable, so to be able to come into the heart of London, into Piccadilly Circus and see photographs of Holocaust survivors in enormous displays, and to be able to celebrate the lives they have rebuilt in Britain just feels a very profound moment.”

The London Eye lit up in purple for Holocaust Memorial Day (Ian West/PA)

(PA Wire)

National landmarks lit up in purple, including the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, the Natural History Museum and Cardiff Castle.

Households across the UK joined the commemorations by lighting a candle in their window at 8pm.

A candle was also burning in the window of Number 10 Downing Street.

Laura Marks, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, spoke of the meaning of this year’s theme, “One Day”.

She said: “One day is Holocaust Memorial Day, one day Bergen-Belsen was liberated.

“One day each of our survivors got out or their parents were taken away.

“One day in the future maybe we won’t need Holocaust Memorial Day because we’ll have learned to tolerate each other, we’ll have learned to respect difference to celebrate difference.”

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www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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