Designed by Steve Ashley and Mike Weaver
Designed by Steve Ashley and Mike Weaver

Stand Together – lest we all forget

Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity each year for people around the UK to stand together with those in their local community, across boundaries of faith, age and ethnicity. We all learn about those affected by genocide around the world and take action for the future.

In Cheltenham we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the legacy of this important day with the testimonies of three survivors of genocide in the hope that we may build a safer world for all people whatever their beliefs or racial identities.

Genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, but these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression.

In the years leading up to the Holocaust, Nazi policies and propaganda deliberately encouraged divisions within German society – urging ‘Aryan’ Germans to keep themselves separate from their Jewish neighbours. The Holocaust, Nazi Persecution of other groups and each subsequent genocide, was enabled by ordinary citizens not standing with their targeted neighbours.

Today there is increasing division in communities across the UK and the world. Now more than ever, we need to stand together with others in our communities in order to stop division and the spread of identity-based hostility in our society.

HMD 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet liberation of 7,000 surviving prisoners from Auschwitz – this is a significant milestone and is made particularly poignant by the dwindling number of survivors who are able to share their testimony.

For further details of the event, please visit the Eventbrite link.

IBY KNILL

It was July, 1944. Auschwitz. A young twin crawled over to Iby one night in the hut. They had earlier seen their parents enter the gas chamber and they were both being used in experiments. ‘Once they have finished, they will send us to the gas chamber,’ she told her. ‘Remember what you have seen and tell the world, because we will not be able to.’ It took 60 years before Iby could finally talk about what happened in Auschwitz. She had kept secret the fact that she had survived Nazi concentration camps – even from her own children.

Today Iby is 96 and lives in Leeds. Now she is telling her story through her book, The Woman Without a Number and The Woman With Nine Lives.

MARIE CHANTAL UWAMAHORO

During the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Chantal witnessed the worst of human nature as people turned against each other. Her family was the only Tutsi family in a village of Hutus and grew up witnessing her family being discriminated against by the Hutu regime for being Tutsi. In 1992, her father was attacked by Hutu extremists and died from inflicted injuries. Two years later, she witnessed her two brothers beaten to death and lost over 80 members of her family including five siblings. She survived with her mother and her sister.

In 1995, she moved to Britain and belongs to a group of survivors  (URUMIRI) and uses her personal story  to help understand the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi and to keep Memories Alive.

MIRSAD SOLAKOVIC

Mirsad Solakovic is from Kozarac, Bosnia. In 1992, at the age of 13, when the Bosnian War broke out he fled the camp with his father, mother, brother and sister to Birmingham, England. Mirsad lost many close family members in the war. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and developed an interest in acting which helped him to overcome his nightmares and flashbacks.

The beginning of Mirsad’s acting career was linked to the Bosnian war and he played many roles as a victim of a war or a soldier. He graduated with a BA (Hons) Degree in Theatre Studies and Professional Practise then trained at the Birmingham School of Acting.

In 2018, Mirsad wrote The Boy Who Said Nothing – A Child’s Story of Fleeing, his story of the conflict.

UNITY OVER DIVISION

Victoria Hart of Unite the Union, working with Unite Community, Unite in Schools, Young Members and Unity over Division.

Speaking on the dangers of the far right and how as a collective we can challenge their infiltration and recognise the hidden agenda behind their messages.

Based in the South West, Victoria has been a part of the anti-far right movement. From small victories, such as the removal of some far right propaganda videos from social media platforms, to National marches and rallies.

Approaching from a Trade Union, Campaigning and Advocacy perspective, Victoria will speak about what has been seen so far in the South West, what we can expect to see more of in the future, and most importantly, how we can seek to combat the dangers of the far right extremists.

Unite the Union is proud to help provide a platform for Iby, Chantal and Mirsad to tell their stories at this Holocaust Memorial Day event in Cheltenham. With its theme of ‘Stand Together’ at the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, solidarity between all our communities is vital.

Unite is also uniquely placed to communicate with our 1.3 million members through their campaign ‘Unity Over Division’ and reach thousands of leaders who are able to influence the political debates that are going on in workplaces across the nations.

Our message? That scapegoating any group of people is an attack on all of us and simply distracts from the real causes of problems in our workplaces and communities and the real solutions to them.

Let’s celebrate what we have in common and respect our differences. Let’s reject hatred in favour of hope. Because we are the many and those that seek to divide us are the few.

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