Diocese of

Hexham and Newcastle

Bishop Robert Byrne CO

Department for Interreligious Relations

Hexham and Newcastle Diocese Holocaust Memorial Evening, Thursday, 22nd January, 2015

Ursula Elliott from the Diocesan Department for Interreligious Relations writes about the evening:

This event, organised by the Diocesan Department of Interreligious Relations, took place at St Aidan's Catholic Academy, Sunderland, with the invaluable assistance of the staff and students.

Invited guests included: Rt Rev Bishop Seamus Cunningham; the Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland, Councillor and Mrs Porterhouse; Rabbi Aaron Lipsey, from the United Hebrew Congregation, Newcastle, and other members of the local Jewish communities; Rev Sheila Bamber, Canon Provost of Sunderland Minster and members of other faith communities in the North East.

Proceedings were opened at 7.00pm by Mr Hammond who welcomed everyone to the school. Mrs Eibhlin Inglesby, Secretary of the Department of Interreligious Relations, introduced each of the items on the programme.

The first item was a dance/drama, performed by Beyond the Barricades. This represented the ultimate triumph of good over evil and hope over despair and was performed to the singing of 'The Lord Is my Shepherd'. It was a powerful and moving beginning to the evening.
This was followed by an account of the Cambodian Genocide during the rule of Pol Pot, in the 70s and 80s, delivered by John Cooper and Chris Hall, students at St Aidan's Academy.

The theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial is 'Keep the Memory Alive' and Rebecca Dover, from St Leonard's RC School, Durham, sang 'Memory' from the musical 'Cats'.

Mrs Deanna Van der Velde, of the United Hebrew Congregation, read a prose poem entitled 'Uninvited Knocks', in which a woman hears an unexpected knock on the door and is vividly reminded of the unwelcome knocks on the door when the Nazis came to arrest her family.

Fr Mariadass Pagysamy, OCD, paid tribute to the life of fellow-Carmelite: Pere Jacques de Jesus, OCD, who risked his life to save Jewish boys and men by hiding them in his school, in France. He was eventually betrayed and sent to a concentration camp, where he continued to minister to his fellow prisoners. He caught TB and died shortly after being liberated.

The next item was another musical number: music from 'Schindler's List', performed on the violin by Georgia Webb, another student from St Leonard's.

The main event of the evening was provided by the guest speaker: Mr Arek Hersh, MBE, A Holocaust survivor and author of the memoir: 'A Detail of History'. He spoke powerfully of his experiences from the age of 11, when his father 'disappeared', to the age of 14, when he was liberated, apparently the only member of his family to survive (although he was later reunited with his sister) and sent with other orphans to England. Mr Hersh was eager to emphasise that the Nazis took everything away from the prisoners, even their names, replacing them with a number tattooed on their arms, and, for that reason, he felt that it was important that we knew, and remembered, his name. After his talk, Mr Hersh took a number of questions from the audience.

Mr Hersh then lit the first Memorial Candle and passed the taper to Ms Anna Armstrong, a teacher from St Aidan's, who lit the second.
Rabbi Lipsey recited the Memorial Prayer, firstly in Hebrew and then in English, for all those who were killed in the Holocaust and other genocides.
The evening closed with a short address by Mrs Anne Shaw, Head of the Department of Interreligious Relations, in which she thanked everyone who had taken part, particularly Mr Hersh; the staff and students of St Aidan's and all those who had attended. Mr Hersh's wife, Jean, was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

There was an opportunity, as people were leaving, to purchase signed copies of Mr Hersh's memoir: 'A Detail of History', all proceeds going to Beth Shalom, in Nottingham.


Department for Interreligious Relations