Every soul, a name known to God: Holocaust Memorial Day 2022
Each year, the Reverend Canon Stewart Lisk, Honorary Chaplain to Cardiff Council, leads the Wales National Ceremony to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). The inter-faith service will be available online from 11am, Thursday January 27 2022, and hosted by First Minister Mark Drakeford, and Councillor Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council.
Here, Rev'd Stewart shares some personal and family reflections on Holocaust Memorial Day 2022.
It has been my privilege to help organise and conduct the Wales National Holocaust Memorial Day service since it was first marked 21 years ago. It has usually taken place in Cardiff City Hall and once in our Cathedral at Llandaff. Around 500 people gather from all parts of Wales of all ages and backgrounds, representing many different faith and community groups together with our political and civic leaders. It is always a moving occasion where we have heard survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust give their often harrowing testimonies, but also one of hope where we see how they have sought to rebuild their lives.
Our speakers are determined that their voices are heard so that future generations not only know about the Nazi persecution but also learn that such events should not happen again.
Wales National Ceremony for HMD 2022
Sadly last year and this January we have not been able to offer our public event owing to the Covid restrictions. So we have recorded our service for people to watch on YouTube.
One of contributors this year is Eva Clarke who has been with us on a number of occasions. Eva was one of only three babies born at Mauthausen concentration camp who survived the Holocaust. Her mother escaped being gassed as the camp ran out of Zyclon B and Mauthausen was destroyed the day before Eva was born on 29th April 1945, as the Nazis retreated.
After an appalling ordeal Eva and her mother Anka eventually found refuge here in Cardiff and began their new life. Her inspirational words can be heard in this year’s service showing how ‘one day’ made a difference to her life.
As well as survivors and witnesses every year we seek to involve young people in the service, they sing and play beautiful music to help raise our spirits. They are also integral to the message. Every year the Holocaust Educational Trust sponsor sixth formers to make educational visits to the site of Auschwitz concentration camp. We ask two of them to share their experiences at our service, one in English and one in Welsh.
In 2018 my daughter Lydia, a Welsh learner, was selected to speak . Her ‘one day’ in Auschwitz Birkenau made a huge impact on her and certainly coloured the way she looked at history and the world today.
She has subsequently become one of the two Regional Ambassadors of the HET and has organised Holocaust Memorial events in Bristol where she is studying politics and international relations. She is spending Holocaust Memorial Day this year in Budapest remembering the 70,000 Jews who were deported from there by Hungary who were allied with Nazi Germany.
We also remember on Holocaust Memorial Day those other than the six million Jews who were exterminated. The Nazis also killed thousands of the Roma community, Trade Union leaders, faith groups who opposed them, LGBT people, the mentally and physically disabled and other racial groups.
Persecution leads to treating others inhumanely and destroys the joy of living.
All of these are represented at our service in leading the prayers and reflections. We have had speakers who recall recent atrocities such as those in Rwanda and Bosnia over the years.
Tragically we do not have to look too far in the world today when we see nations, leaders and groups as well as powerful individuals who practice persecution and oppression that can lead to treating others inhumanely and destroy the joy of living.
Holocaust Memorial Day is not just about remembering past tragic events but is about changing attitudes in the world today. It is good that some of our young people embrace this. However there are youngsters around who have lived lives blighted by abuse, prejudice and hatred for what and who they are. Some of them find refuge and support in our churches and schools. However some are bullied and harassed and have to withdraw from the community that causes them harm. In charities like the Amelia Trust Farm where my wife Karen is the Managing Director, they have a vision that no one should be excluded from society. ‘One day’ in that caring and respectful environment can lead to many more where those damaged individuals can heal and be nurtured.
Eradicate the seeds of prejudice from inside us
I remember well one speaker some years ago, a survivor of cruel persecution in the camps told us that his persecutors were not monsters but ordinary people who had taken the wrong path and made terrible decisions. He urged us to look at ourselves and our lives to ensure that we eradicate the seeds of prejudice and hatred from inside us as we can all be guilty of tacitly accepting wrong doing. As the Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel said “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”.
As we mark this ‘One day’ hoping and praying for an end to genocide and the behaviour that leads to it, let us resolve to do all we can to make our community and churches places of welcome and acceptance where love can flourish.
Every soul, a name known to God
As you can see the message of Holocaust Memorial makes an impact on our family. We all visited the Holocaust Memorial and museum in Berlin two years ago and following that our now 15 year old daughter Sophie wrote this poem.
An agonising journey took them away.
The cruelty of man stripped their identity.
Each soul had a story
Each soul had a family
Each soul had a personality
Each soul had a voice
Each soul had dreams
Each soul had a home
The cruelty of man stripped them away.
Dehumanised by a number
But every soul, a name known to God
Holocaust Memorial Day 2022
The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘One day in the future with no genocide’. Visit Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (hmd.org.uk) for more information.