• Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

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Academy hosts memorial service to remember Holocaust victims

THE daughter of a Holocaust survivor has warned of the growth of anti-Semitism fearing the ‘never again’ pledge of a postwar world could be lost in the annals of history.

Hungarian-born Marta Josephs spoke at a poignant service at St Michael’s Catholic Academy, Billingham, marking the 75thanniversary of the Holocaust, organised by the academy for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle Department for Inter-religious Relations.

She told an audience of more than 200, including Bishop Robert Byrne,: “If we had one minute’s silence for each of the six million victims then we would not speak for the next eleven and a half years.

“After the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed the world said ‘never again’ but we are seeing anti-Semitism raise its head again in the living memory of the victims. My dad survived the horrors of several concentration camps and when he returned weighed just 6st despite being 6ft tall.

“I adored him but am glad he isn’t alive today to see what is going on. Anti-Semitism is a sign that there is something wrong with society and we ignore that at our peril. You would think the world would have learnt its lesson but obviously it hasn’t.”

For Holocaust ambassador Maddison Whitehouse, 13, the Holocaust and Anne Frank Trust exhibition she guided visitors around before the service had profound meaning.

“My nanna is German and fled to England when she was 15,” she said. “She’s almost 90 now but if you talk to her about the war she becomes very emotional and the tears well up in her eyes. We must learn from our mistakes and never forget about them otherwise we could make them again.”

The memorial service opened with a welcome from St Michael’s Principal Andrew Ramsey. He said: “This has been a momentous week for our staff and pupils, overwhelmingly powerful, transformational, and will ensure this community will never forget.”

Head boy Jimi Diaz-Wright and head girl Alex Madden read the poem ‘First They Came’ before Lucy Eastwick and the academy choir sang ‘Stand Together’, a moving rendition written and composed by students.

Visitor Deanna Van Der Velde told the story of the Gold Chain written by her cousin Jane Spiro before deputy head boy George Henderson and teacher Tom Hodgson spoke of the genocide of Bosnia 25 years ago.

Harpist Kim Johnstone provided the haunting melody for a video featuring images of the Nazi deathcamps

St Michael’s pupil Claudia Shearer gave a vocal performance of Oyfen Pripetshik, sung in Yiddish, before candles were lit to symbolize the millions murdered in the Holocaust and other genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur.

The Kaddish was read by Anthony Josephs and a memorial prayer by Mr Josephs and Graham Wilkins before Rev John Butters led the Universal Prayer for Peace.

Painted prayer pebbles were then laid at a specially commissioned metal sculpture of The Star of David in the academy’s memorial garden, created by North Yorkshire artist Eddie Roberts.

By French