Remembering those who lost their lives on Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted on: Thursday, January 27, 2022

Newark and Sherwood District Council led a small ceremony this week to pay respect to victims of genocide on Holocaust Memorial Day.  The small remembrance service was held at the Irena Sendler statue on London Road in Newark.

Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday 27 January encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide. It’s a day to remember the six million Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people who died under Nazi persecution of other groups and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

In June 2021, Polish humanitarian hero Irena Sendler had her statue officially unveiled at Newark’s Fountain Gardens on London Road.  Irena worked tirelessly during World War II to help protect and rescue many Jewish children and their families from the evils of the Holocaust.

Today’s small ceremony provided an opportunity for local people to pay tribute to victims of the Holocaust. Wreaths were laid by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Air Chief Marshal Rt’d  Sir Andrew Pulford, Consul General of the Republic of Poland Michał Mazurek, Polish Vice Consul and Head of Consular, Cultural, Public Diplomacy and Polish Affairs Section Patryk Gowin, Newark and Sherwood District Council Chairman Councillor Penny Rainbow and Newark Town Mayor Councillor Lisa Geary.

Head of Consular, Cultural, Public Diplomacy and Polish Affairs Section, Patryk Gowin, said: ‘The United Nations General Assembly set 27 of January as an International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This date is a pivotal reminder of how vigilant we ought to be in our efforts to protect the notions of respect, peace and coexistence of divergent cultures.

‘As history showed us myriad of times, even a tiny, little dent in a layer of tolerance may lead to tragic consequences for millions of people across the globe.

‘Gathering today, however, around Irena Sendler’s statue we are united in a common objective which highlights the importance of unrelenting will in saying proverbial “no” to cruelty and inhumane actions ignited by self-centered thinking and blind race for dominance over the freedom of nations.’

Air Chief Marshal Rt’d  Sir Andrew Pulford, said: ‘I felt privileged to have been involved in the unveiling of Irena’s statue last year and it is an honour to lay a wreath here today on Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a day of Remembrance of the Jews and others who suffered during the holocaust but also of the bravery and courage of many, like Irena Sendler, who stood up against tyranny and evil.’

Newark and Sherwood District Council Chairman Councillor, Penny Rainbow, said: ‘Today we remember the victims of the Holocaust and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.

‘It’s quite right that we pay our respects at the Irena Sendler statue as we pay tribute to all she sacrificed to save countless lives during World War II. It is an honour to have her he in our town and it makes me very proud to see her here in our community.

‘The sacrifice made by Irena Sendler to save many Jewish children and families from the horrors of the Holocaust will be remembered for generations to come.

‘We hope the statue will be a reminder for those in the future about the great sacrifices that were made during conflict.’

Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: ‘It’s so important we preserve Irena’s memory. At the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust our mission is to learn from genocide for a better future. The statue of this brave woman will serve as a reminder both of this darkest of chapters but also of the very best of humanities response. 

‘We can all look at Irena’s life and ask where can we be more courageous today in standing up for those that need our help? I especially hope when future generations look at this statue and learn of her life, they can be encouraged to be that glimmer of light in their own communities.’

Newark Town Mayor Councillor Lisa Geary, said: ‘Today we are marking UK Holocaust Memorial day by placing flowers and lanterns at the statue of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who rescued Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.  Irena showed tremendous courage and seized every opportunity to remove many children from danger to places of safety.

‘I hope that many people in Newark will join the national observance of Holocaust Memorial Day by lighting a candle and safely placing it in their window today to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against hatred and prejudice today.’

The statue of Irena Sendler was offered to Newark and Sherwood District Council who were honoured to accept and display it. The statue sits in the Fountain Gardens on London Road which is a highly visible location as a gateway into the town.

Newark has a long history with Polish culture and Polish service personnel during World War II with Former Prime Minister of Władysław Sikorski being buried at Newark Cemetery for a time. Many Polish airmen were also stationed in Newark during the Second World War and the town has a significant number of Polish war graves.

Newark is also twinned with the city of Sandomierz, one of Poland’s oldest and historically most significant cities.