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Untold Stories
ImageOn Holocaust Memorial Day people all over the world stop to think about the horrors of what humans can do to each other.  In Hackney,  January 27th, the anniversary of when help came to the victims in Auschwitz, is very special.

Over the centuries, so many people fleeing from danger have found a place of refuge here in East London.  People of all ages from across Hackney come to the Town Hall each year to stand with politicians to think how we can stop the violence that killed millions in Auschwitz, Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda, and so many other  places around the world ever happening again.

2011 - Untold Stories
The theme for this year's reflection on Holocaust Memorial Day is "Untold Stories".   Akeena Smith, of the Skinners' Academy, passed on some of the crucial lessons that she learned on her trip to Auschwitz.   Please click here to read why Akeena  thinks it is so important that people should discover the untold stories, and bear witness to the horrors of the holocaust.

2010 - A Legacy of Hope
School pupils who are learning about the holocaust in lessons joined with refugees and veterans of World War Two who lived and fought through the terrors to think about what Holocaust Memorial day is all about.   The Speaker of Hackney welcomed the room full of people from all  walks of life, and Councillor Ian Rathbone began by reminding everyone why the day is so very important.

Nicola Baboneau, of The Learning Trust, showed how it is the children and young people in Hackney who are the legacy of hope for the future, as they lead the way in making sure that we all face up to and learn the lessons of history.  Please click here to read what she said.  Right there in the Council Chamber, in front of the Mayor, and lots of politicians who make decisions about a lot of what happens in the world, children and students talked - and sang - for themselves. 

School after school took part, showing how the wonderful ethnic and cultural mixture of people growing up in Hackney are on the way to becoming the next talented generation, who will stand up against the hatred and ignorance that are foundations of racism and the seeds of holocaust.   They talked about the Anne Frank exhibition, and the legacy of her short life. 

Nobody moved a muscle as 15-year old Zahra Bahjuny carefully explained why it is so important that we all face up to history: she spelled out the causes of the genocide in Rwanda - which started when she was just two weeks old.  Please click here to read what Zahra said - and why she has changed her career plans from aiming at being a midwife to .... well, you'll have to let her tell you herself.

While everyone was thinking of all the pain and the loss that the terrible human massacres have meant, Fiona Thompson-Shaw's huge, beautiful voice sounded as though it filled the whole of Hackney as she sang in German a Schubert song "Du Bist die Ruh", about calm, peace and longing for those that we are missing (you can see a picture of Fiona on this page).

Amongst the many other ways that the community marked the day, the Rio cinema had special showings for schools of Life is Beautiful, a brilliant film which tells a story from World War Two full of hope and humour and human understandingIf you would like to read reviews by school students Simge Bostanci, Nurcan Altun and Luz Edwards, please click herehere and here.

2009 - Standing up to Hatred in Hackney
On Tuesday 27th January 2009 the Council Chamber in Hackney Town Hall was filled to bursting with people who Councillor Ian Rathbone, the Speaker of Hackney, had invited for something very important.  Whether they were children, teenagers or adults, whether they had a big important job in Hackney, like being the Speaker or the Mayor or the Head of the Learning Trust, or whether they were somebody very little who hardly anybody has heard of - like the children who sang so beautifully in the Simon Marks Jewish Primary School choir - whatever country their family had come from, whether they were religious or not - they were all thinking about exactly the same thing, because it was Holocaust Memorial Day and a very special time for every single person to really think.

Exactly sixty-four years before, in January 1945,  relief had arrived at the terrible concentration camp at Auchwitz, where so many millions like teenager Anne Frank had faced such terrors - just because they were different.  And at so many other times, in so many countries around the world, other groups of people have been picked on and hated - just because they were different too.

So the people who were standing together in Hackney Town Hall were saying something very loud and very clear.  One after another, in different ways, everybody said we just must all, individually, Stand up to Hatred - and we will all have a better chance that the bullying and the hatred and the racism that led to the horrors of the Holocaust will not happen in the future.

Teenagers showing the way
ImageAlexandra Joseph and Phoebe Ballantyne-Brown from Clapton Girls' Technology College told everyone what they had learned from Anne Frank's diary - and why it matters so much.  Kamil  Boriel, a student at The Petchey Academy, read out the Anne Frank declaration, making his personal pledge to stand up against hatred.  Please click here to read what Kamil promised.

Wackesha Alexander, Salim Sharman and Roxanne Hinds, all teenage students from Hackney Free & Parochial School,  together with the Mayor and Speaker of Hackney, read aloud on behalf of the residents of Hackney a Statement of Commitment.  Please read it (click here) and do your best to stand up to hatred.

If you would like to find out more, please contact the Anne Frank Trust.   And if you would like to read about a resource pack designed specially to help teach about the Holocaust, please click here.
Photographs of Holocaust Memorial Day are shown courtesy of photographer Gary Manhine
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