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Pictures: Stroud marks Holocaust Memorial Day

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Around 200 people commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday afternoon in Park Gardens, off Slad Road, to remember victims of persecution.

The event was led by Rev Simon Howell, Pioneer Minister at St Laurence Church, with Leader of Stroud District Council, Catherine Braun, the first speaker.

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Cllr Catherine Braun, leader of Stroud District Council.

Cllr Braun said: “It is hard to comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides and understand how so many ordinary people could take such evil actions and inflict such suffering on their fellow humans.

“Across the world, there have been so many examples, the concentration camps and murder of 6,000,000 Jewish people during the Holocaust. The Nazi persecution of hundreds of thousands of others, including Roma and Sinti people, other ethnic groups, the disabled, LGBT people, and political opponents. The genocide did not end with the Nazis and the Holocaust. There are also more recent examples of state-sponsored persecution and murder, in Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s, and most recently, the persecution of the black African population in Darfur and Uighur Muslims in China.

“At each step along the way toward genocide, there is an opportunity to take preventative action to check and stop the discrimination and hatred before it spreads. Prevention happens by developing institutions that encourage social and cultural tolerance for diversity. By forbidding hate speech and ensuring full citizenship and voting rights for all. But this is not just a job for lawmakers and governments. There’s a role for each of us as ordinary people in our daily lives, as family members, neighbours, and colleagues to call out discrimination and racism wherever we see and hear it.

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“It is the simple act of just ignoring hatred, turning a blind eye that leads to its normalisation and then to dehumanisation and persecution of people – ultimately to genocide. Stroud District Council is part of the countywide Hate Crime Partnership which is working to tackle acts of violence, hostility and intimidation directed towards people because of their identity or perceived difference. People are encouraged to challenge and report crime and the support in place for victims when it occurs.

“Unfortunately, reports of hate crime continue to rise in our country and in our county. In the year to March 2022 there were over 155,000 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales, which was a 26 per cent increase on the previous year. In Gloucestershire, hate crimes are also on the increase and despite improvements in the recording of offences, hate crime remains massively underreported.”

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Jen Hoskins from Stroud Pride.

Other speakers included Emma Calcutt from Community Solidarity, Jen Hoskins of Stroud Pride, and Jewish Stroud resident Ruth Schamroth.

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Imam Hassan of the Masjid-E-Noor Mosque in Barton, Gloucester.

Imam Hassan from the Masjid-E-Noor Mosque in Barton, Gloucester, made an address, and Cllr Norman Kay, Vice Chair of Stroud District Council, and Dr Mendes da Costa of the Three Counties Liberal Jewish Community, read the Kaddish, a hymn praising God, firstly in English then in Hebrew.

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Polly Stratton from Stroud Against Racism.

Polly Stratton from Stroud Against Racism spoke at the event, and was followed by Andy Wooley from Gloucestershire District Trades Council and Satyadaya of the Buddhist Community in Stroud.

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Karen Coldrick sang Zog Nit Keynmol.

Stroud Red Band played Zog Nit Keynmol, a Yiddish song considered to be one of the chief anthems of Holocaust survivors, sung by Karen Coldrick. The band’s closing piece was The Internationale, all you Fascists bound to lose.

Organiser Jeremy Green said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is the commemoration of the liberation of the death camp at Auschwitz by the Red Army when they pushed the Nazis back and liberated that camp.

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Jeremy Green, organiser of the Holocaust Memorial event and member of Stroud Red Band.

“Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates not only the Nazi Holocaust, the genocide against the Jewish people during the Second World War, but also the other victims of the Nazis and other genocides, including the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides.

“It’s important that this is commemorated everywhere because if we don’t remember these events, then there is a danger that we will repeat them.

“This event is not just so we can all stand and look sombre and sort of dress ourselves in the gravity of the occasion, but so we can put a wall between ourselves and the people who would revive these kinds of sentiments – and they’re not a million miles away.”

Pictures by Matt Bigwood

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