London candlelight vigil marks National Holocaust Commemoration

Six yellow candles were lit by Holocaust survivors, accompanied by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren

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Hundreds of people gathered in Victoria Tower Gardens outside the Houses of Parliament in central London for the National Holocaust Commemoration on Sunday.

A candlelight vigil was held at the event, with six yellow candles lit by Holocaust survivors, accompanied by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan had been expected to attend the event on Sunday evening but did not because of personal reasons.

Bronia Snow, 96, shared her story of leaving her parents behind to make a new home in the UK, marking the 85th anniversary this year of the kindertransport rescues.

The humanitarian rescue effort, which ran between November 1938 and September 1939, gave 10,000 children, most of them Jewish, safe passage to the UK from Nazi-controlled territory in Europe.

Ms Snow arrived at the railway station in Prague on May 31, 1939, and found the platform was “teeming with parents and children and armed German soldiers”, adding she was “absolutely terrified”.

She said she boarded a train and cannot remember “speaking to anyone, eating anything or drinking anything”.

“I just seemed to be in a trance," Ms Snow said.

She crossed the border into Holland and was put on a boat to England, where she was taken to live with her mother’s cousin in Hampstead, London.

“I did not know a word of English but luckily had started to learn German at school so had a language which I could communicate,” Ms Snow said.

“Letters from my parents were grim as Jews they had to wear yellow stars.”

Ms Snow said her parents were deported to a concentration camp in 1942 and, apart from one letter, all communication stopped.

Her speech received a standing ovation from the audience.

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Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis referred to the Hamas-led October 7 attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people.

Mr Mirvis said that before that date, “We blissfully could have imagined and presumed that horrific Jewish suffering is something which applied to other people in other places at other times”.

But since that date, he said: “We know that it is possible here."

Mr Mirvis said the UK is “witnessing a worrying rise in levels of anti-Semitism”.

“And it is here, week after week on the streets of London, that we are witnessing unacceptable outpourings of Jew hatred.

“But it is also here in the UK that we know we are not alone.

“We know that the vast majority of the citizens of our country recognise that a threat to the Jews is a threat to all of our society.

“We as a nation will always strive to guarantee that we will remember the lessons of the Holocaust in order to shape our presence and to inform and inspire a better, healthier, more peaceful and secure Britain.”

Teenager Ruby Frankel of the JLGB (Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade) told how a UK Jewish youth group helped to save thousands of refugees taken to the UK from Nazi Germany, through the “Kitchener Camp rescue”, which also took place 85 years ago this year.

The event featured performances from a combined male voice choir alongside 115 children from Jewish primary schools.

The Holocaust was the systematic murder of European Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators from 1941 during the Second World War.

Updated: May 05, 2024, 9:55 PM