Newark commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted on: Friday, January 27, 2023

Newark and Sherwood District Council led a small ceremony today 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 Friday 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 Sue Saddington and Newark Town Mayor Councillor Laurence Goff.

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 tolerance, peace and coexistence of divergent cultures.

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

‘Our customary meeting around Irena Sendler’s statue is both symbolic sign and statement that inhumane actions ignited by self-centred leaders thinking in ramifications of brute force and power should not be tolerated in modern world.’

Air Chief Marshal Rt’d Sir Andrew Pulford, said: ‘We continue to live in a troubled World and events in Ukraine over the past year have reminded us that there are still people in positions of power who would wish to inflict pain and suffering on others. I feel privileged to be able to lay a wreath at Irina Sendler’s memorial today, National Holocaust Memorial Day, a day in which we remember not only the atrocities inflicted upon the innocent but also that small acts of compassion by the brave and courageous can help good overcome evil.’

Newark and Sherwood District Council Chairman Councillor, Sue Saddington, said: ‘It seems fitting that we pay our respects at the Irena Sendler statue during Holocaust Memorial Day as we remember the victims of the Holocaust and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.

‘Today we pay tribute to all she sacrificed to save countless lives during World War II. It makes me very proud to see her here in our community and it’s an honour that the statue has been placed in our town.

‘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 Laurence Goff, 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 within the Commonwealth War Graves at the Cemetery.

On Sunday 6 November, there was a service of farewell for three Polish presidents in exile buried in Newark Cemetery Władysław Raczkiewicz, August Zaleski, and Stanisław Ostrowski. The service took place at Newark Parish Church as they made their way back to their homeland for a state funeral.  It was attended by a delegation from the Republic of Poland of several hundred people, including many military personnel too.

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