Published: 06:00, 27 January 2021
| Updated: 14:28, 28 January 2021
Holocaust Memorial Day in Kent will be marked differently this year with virtual events being staged across the county.
The annual event encourages people to remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
It is also staged to remember the millions of other people killed in other genocides which followed in other parts of the world including Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur and Rwanda.
It is held on January 27 each year because it marks the anniversary of liberation of the largest Nazi-run death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.
The importance of the Holocaust Memorial Day is aimed at getting thousands of people to come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a better safer future.
It is also staged to honour survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition by genocides.
The theme for 2021 is Be the Light in the Darkness.
It hopes to encourage everyone to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted the darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocides.
The day is set out to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that genocide can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented.
Today there will be various online events being held in Kent so people can join from their own home to mark the day.
There will be a virtual ceremony involving the mayor’s chaplain, the Rev John Emmott, and the head of culture, tourism and leisure and his deputy, Cllrs Matthew Forest and Jenny Webb.
This will be available to view on a dedicated section on the Ashford Borough Council website, which will also include a virtual exhibition exploring this year’s theme.
A posy will also be laid at the Anne Frank tree in the Memorial Gardens in the town.
And people can get involved as the Victoria Park team are putting together some tutorial videos on how to create a memorial day lantern, which can also be accessed via the council's website.
Cllr Forest said: "We remember those who were murdered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
"We also honour the survivors of these regimes and challenge ourselves to use their experience to inform our lives today.”
There is no public event planned for the area, but it will be marked by Canterbury Cathedral's clergy live-streaming its Evensong service which will be dedicated to Holocaust Memorial Day.
The service, at 5.30pm can be watched by clicking here.
Civic, community and faith partners could attend an online event to commemorate the day.
The event has been organised by the Kent Equality Cohesion Council and Cohesion Plus in partnership with Dartford Borough Council.
The online session features presentations by a range of speakers including Gerald Rose from the Catford and Bromley Synagogue.
Rabi Mati Kirschenbaum from Bromley Reform Synagogue, about how the Holocaust impacted his family, whilst Fiyaz Mughal from Faith Matters was showing the importance of inter-faith work, and the story of the 'Righteous Muslims' who saved Jewish lives during the Second world War.
Gurvinder Sandher from the Kent Equality Cohesion Council said: “It is so imperative that we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and learn the lessons of history."
The Chatham Memorial Synagogue, Intra Arts and the Ship Inn have organised a project called Closer Than You Think.
It provides an opportunity for people to find out about a little known story which connects two important events, the Holocaust Memorial Day and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) History Month.
The two establishments have come together to share the experience of one of history's darkest moments.
In the area known as Chatham Intra, are two historic buildings some 20 yards apart, where two communities have faced each other for decades.
The Ship Inn thought to be one of the oldest LGBT venues in the country and the Chatham Memorial Synagogue over the years have probably had little or nothing to do with each other.
However, recent history has revealed they do share something of great significance.
Both communities over the years have suffered prejudice and discrimination and during the Nazi regime many paid the ultimate price.
Perhaps lesser known is that tens of thousands of homosexuals were arrested, around 50,000 given severe prison sentences and forced to carry out hard labour.
It is also estimated between 10-15,000 were incarcerated within the camps, 60% of whom died. For those that did survive, legislation known as ‘Paragraph 175’ introduced by the Nazi’s made homosexuality illegal and regarded them as criminals, as a result they were then transported to German prisons.
Homosexual men were identified by a large ‘pink triangle’ worn on their uniform and the Jewish prisoners by a ‘yellow star’.
These images will be used to symbolise the bringing together of the two communities in a shared remembrance of the atrocities they both endured during the holocaust.
This will form part of a visual window display at Intra Arts and the Chatham Memorial Synagogue and Ship Inn will be decorated with fabric replicas of these two symbols.
The installation will be in place today at 337 - 347 - 366 High Street, Rochester, and will run throughout LGBT History Month in February.
Information will also be made available to schools via links with Chatham Library.
Other organisations involved include Chatham Library and Intra Arts.
Medway Council will also commemorate the day virtually.
Its Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration service will be available for residents to watch on Medway Libraries’ YouTube channel from today, or by clicking here.
The service will include presentations, readings and performances from Chatham Memorial Synagogue, The Mayor of Medway, Kent Police, Medway Inter-faith Action Forum, Medway Youth Council, Bradfields Academy, Cliffe Woods Primary School and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School.
And pupils at King's in Rochester watched a live webcast with Eve Kugler, yesterday.
Her family was torn apart by the Nazis, and the event was organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Eve who was born in Halle an der Saale in Germany and has recently celebrated her 90th birthday.
Her parents survived concentration camps, her youngest sister was forced into hiding and Eve and her other sister were sent to foster homes in America.
Remarkabl, in 1946 they were all reunited.
During the webcast, Eve told her story in the context of the Holocaust.
Deputy headmaster of King’s Rochester Preparatory School and history teacher, Paul Medhust said: “This is a rare opportunity for pupils to hear a Holocaust survivor speak first-hand and to reflect on this dark episode in our recent history.
"A study of the Holocaust is an integral part of the Key Stage 3 history syllabus, but an understanding of this genocide transcends classroom studies, and is doubly important as we see a rise in hate-crime and recent events in the USA show us that we must never take our freedoms for granted.”
Pupils then discussed some of the issues raised during the webcast in subsequent workshops.
In 2018, King’s welcomed fellow survivor Rudi Oppenheimer to give a similar presentation on his time in Bergen-Belsen.
A public recorded service and live Zoom meeting are being staged from 2pm to 2.45pm, organised by Ramsgate Town Council.
To mark the day, the Mayor of Ramsgate, Cllr Raushan Ara, will host a virtual memorial service which has been pre-recorded.
It is being shown via its YouTube channel and by searching #ramsgatetown or by clicking here.
It will be followed by a Zoom meeting at 2pm, which will enable members of the public to participate in a Q&A session about the service and the topic.
People can watch the service at a time suitable to them and join the Zoom meeting at 2pm today.
To join the meeting click here.
The Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Cllr Joy Podbury, will wear her chain of office and mark the occasion privately at the War Memorial in Tunbridge Wells.
She will lay a white lily wreath.
And pupils at Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Culverden Down, have been holding online assemblies every morning this week to educate them about the memorial day.
People living in the area and other parts of the county can join an online national commemoration this evening between 7pm and 8pm. To register, click here.
People across Kent are also being encouraged to light a candle and put it in their window at 8pm this evening and upload a picture to social media using the hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay #LightintheDarkness
To find out more about the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, click here.