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The message was clear - we must not persecute those who are different to us whether because of their religion, race or sexuality and we must remember those who passed in the Holocaust as well as other genocides.

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Redbridge marked Holocaust Memorial Day with a service by rabbis, schoolchildren and councillors and attended by those of all faiths yesterday.

Some leaders stressed that now is a crucial time to pass on a message of tolerance with so few survivors of the Nazi persecution of the Jews and minority groups still alive to give the word directly.

After the ceremony, Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin, from the Chabad Lubavitch Centres in Woodford Avenue, Gants Hill, said: “This is the first year we haven’t had a Holocaust survivor talking.

“This is the reality now. We must pass on what we hear.”

The ceremony began at 11am and was held in the Holocaust Memorial Garden in Valentines Park, Ilford, and based around the theme of journeys.

Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Felicity Banks, opened the ceremony and stressed we must not forget history to the crowd that spilled out into the park despite the chilly conditions.

See the picture gallery in the sidebar to the right.

Cllr Banks said: “If we learn these lessons then the suffering of the victims in the Holocaust will not be in vain.”

Holocaust Memorial Day is a national event dedicated to remembering victims of the Holocaust which has been held every year since 2001.

The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945.

Redbridge Council leader, Cllr Keith Prince, followed with a speech focused on forced journeys not just for the Jews during the Second World War but for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people too.

He said: “Some ended in survival, some in disguise, some in hiding.

“The most famous journey was of 10,000 children going to Great Britain before borders were closed by the outbreak of war.

“They found foster homes, some by Jewish people and some by non-Jewish people.”

The psalm I lift up my eyes to the hills was performed in Hebrew by the Combined Choirs of South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue in Oaks Lane, Newbury Park, and Ilford United Synagogue in Beehive Lane, Ilford, who have performed at the Redbridge service since 2001. They sang to remember those who died in atrocities.

Rabbi Sufrin, applauded the “mixed crowd” that had turned out to the “very special occasion”.

He noted how time had passed so quickly since the last memorial day.

“But how long was a year if you were incarcerated in one of the hell homes known as a concentration camp?” he said. “How long was a day, how long was an hour?”

He also addressed the audience with a recent example of racial intolerance.

On a recent trip in mainland Europe he and a group of other Jewish people were accosted by some young men.

“A group of youths could do nothing better than to poke fun at the Jewish people gathered.

“An elderly man probably in his 70s turned around to the uncouthed young men and in a loud voice responded.

“But all that changed was somebody on the station turned around.”

The man, who the rabbi said wasn’t Jewish, told the boys off.

“They shied away; we did not shy away. The rest is history.

“How you behave today, that becomes history.”

The rabbi also paid tribute to those who died in other genocides such as the mass slaughter of the ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda where up to a million died.

He said: “The journey is up to us, what we are going to do with it. What are we going to make different so that tomorrow’s history is something that we can be proud of?”

Rabbi Geoffrey Hyman, of the Ilford United Synagogue, performed a recital written by former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

Rabbi Hyman said: “We remember the victims of the greatest crime of man against man. That a million and a half children should starve because they were deemed guilty of the crime of being different.”

A prayer was read by Reverend Gary Newman of the Ilford branch of the Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women and members of the audience thoughtfully mimed along.

To end the service Redbridge students read the memorialday’s commitments in which they said: “We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism.

“We value a free, tolerant and democratic society.”

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