‘We will be free to work in harmony’ - Redbridge hears a message of hope on Holocaust Memorial Day

The need to never forget the horrors of the Nazi genocide and the hope that one day the world will be free of persecution were two of the defining themes of the borough’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

For the 13th year, Redbridge marked the national day which remembers those communities destroyed during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and other countries.

In the Holocaust Memorial Garden in Valentines Park, Ilford, today, politicians, councillors, schoolchildren and residents heard from Bob Obuchowski, 84, of Leigh Avenue, Redbridge, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps.

Mr Obuchowski said: “When I was liberated by the Russians, I thought we were free of racialism and anti-Semitism.

“Unfortunately we find a lot of it still.

“We hope one day it will be cured and we will be free, all the minority groups and all the people will work in harmony.”

His words were echoed by World War Two veteran Leslie Sutton, 88, of Limewood Court, Redbridge, who was present at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leadership.

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Speaking after the service, he said: “It’s what Churchill said, anything that’s forgotten can be repeated.

“It’s very gratifying, that there’s so many people particularly the pupils from the schools. The future is in their hands.”

Pupils from Clore Tikva Jewish, Ilford Jewish and Uphall primary schools spoke to the crowd and asked them to be grateful for all they have, such as the beauty of the nature in the park around them.

They also read The Butterfly, a poem by Czechoslovak Pavel Freedman who was killed in Auschwitz, ending on the poignant line “there are no butterflies here, in the ghetto”.

Speakers from King Solomon High School also drew on the rich cultural heritage of Holocaust survivors, reading Shema, a poem by Italian writer Primo Levi.

Standards from the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade, its Ilford girl’s unit, and the Barkingside branch of the Royal British Legion were raised during the service as the memorial prayer was recited.

Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin from the Chabad Lubavitch Ilford Centre in Eastern Avenue, Gants Hill; Father Stewart Halstead of St Alban’s Church, Albert Road, Ilford; the Mayor of Redbridge Cllr Muhammed Javed and council leader Cllr Keith Prince all addressed the audience and were joined by Ilford MPs Lee Scott and Mike Gapes.

The combined choirs of the South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue and the Ilford United Synagogue performed a hymn.