Poignant ceremony attended by son of the man dubbed the ‘British Schindler’ marks Holocaust Memorial Day in Leeds

The Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

1
Have your say

We will and we must remember them.

That was the message to come from a poignant ceremony in Leeds to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 today.

Hundreds of people, including religious leaders and Holocaust survivors, packed into Leeds Town Hall to pay their respects to the millions murdered through genocide.

Guest speaker Nick Winton, whose father Sir Nicholas Winton rescued 669 children from Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport trains in the run up to the Second World War, captured the gathered crowd with his father’s lifesaving tale.

Mr Winton, who later hosted a question and answer session, said: “We all swim in the same pond and ripples of everything we do spread out to our friends, families and communities and we all have a choice in life about how big of a splash you will want to make.”

The event, which had a ‘Don’t Stand By’ theme, also featured performances by the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds, who sung a piece by a Jewish composer displaced during the war, and the Academy of Northern Ballet.

Rudi Leavor at the Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

Rudi Leavor at the Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The dance performance of ‘Small Steps’ was inspired by conversations with Holocaust survivors and the journeys almost 10,000 children made through the Kindertransport to escape Nazi rule.

Leeds’ ceremony came to a close with the lighting of seven candles by members of communities, including those with disabilities, from different ethnic backgrounds and faiths, affected by genocide worldwide.

Rudi Leavor, chairman at Bradford Synagogue, also sung an adapted Jewish prayer in memory of those who died.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun Judith Chapman said that amid the Syrian refugee crisis, which will see Leeds welcome 200 people escaping the conflict over the next two years, lessons from the Holocaust are still relevant.

The Academy of Northern Ballet perform at the Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The Academy of Northern Ballet perform at the Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

She said: “We believe that Holocaust Memorial Day is a vital opportunity to reflect on the atrocities that took place in Nazi Germany and across Europe and to ensure those terrible events don’t happen again.”

The man dubbed ‘the British Schindler’

Sir Nicholas Winton was a British banker who organised the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

His act of heroism, on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War, saw him find homes for the children and arrange for their safe passage to Britain.

The Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The Holocaust Memorial Day service in Leeds. Picture by James Hardisty.

The world only found out about his work more than 40 years later in 1988 when it was revealed on an episode of the BBC’s ‘That’s Life!’.

It is thought that around 5,000 more people are alive today thanks to his efforts. Sir Nicholas died in July 2015 aged 106.