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Holocaust Memorial Day

Today's reflection is from our curate, Rev'd Andrew Day

I grew up with four grandmothers, and for that matter with four grandfathers, two biological and two step. I know, it sounds very greedy, but it was a blessing of great riches. There was a rumour that one of my grandmothers was born Jewish and in the dangerous times of the 1930s had converted to Roman Catholicism (and a zealous Catholic she was). She, and her family, fled German-speaking Europe for Southern Africa. This was never something of which anyone spoke until after her death, and even in the 1990s, not all of the family was convinced by the story until a box was discovered with documents in it; these seemed to confirm the tale’s veracity. In 2018, as part of my ordination training, I spent a week at Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp near Krakow in Poland. This was my second visit to the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau and was just as horrifying as the first. There is a palpable sense of evil which pervades the place to this day - the horrendous narrative of inhumanity. My grandmother’s surname was Schneeberg, or possibly Schneeberger, and so I set about looking through the record to find any references to anyone with that surname. This is what I found.

You cannot account for the emotions you experience in the moment that you read such a list - each and every one of them, possibly, connected to you by some familial line, but in that moment, irrespective of whether they are or are not, they become, for that moment, a relation. There is a deep sadness that overwhelms when you consider the horror perpetrated on innocent human beings. Placing that stone, that pebble, on the running board of a cattle-wagon, in memory of those who died, becomes that much more meaningful, that much more heart-rending, when you assume that relationship.

Holocaust Memorial Day gives each and every one of us the opportunity to hold, even metaphorically, a pebble to remember those who have died as a consequence of inhumanity, of prejudice, of a fervently held belief of one’s superiority over another, in the Holocaust, or for that matter in any of the genocides before or since. And to reflect that it did not just happen then, it happens now! “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust deliver me! O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;”

(from Psalm 43)


You may wish to join any (or all) of the following this coming Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January:

  • Midday Prayer led by the Rev’d David Bagnall, from Kigali, Rwanda.

  • A Commemoration from Auschwitz at 3pm on the 27th January

  • The National HMD2021 Commemoration will be streamed online at 7pm on the 27th January - go to HMD2021 to register to participate

  • Light a candle at 8pm and place it in a window as an act of remembrance.

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