‘The Power of Words’: Holocaust Memorial Day 2018
Welsh Gypsies and Travellers and supporters from all over Wales and Welsh politicians joined together in Cardiff last week to remember the victims of the Holocaust. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust also released a short film clip featuring Romany Gypsies, and events and commemorations also took place over the rest of the UK, including the presentation of the Dora Love Prize at Essex University.
An estimated quarter of a million to a million Roma and Sinti died in Nazi occupied territories or under allied fascist regimes during the Second World War which lasted from 1939 to 1945 and, increasingly, there is more recognition of these victims.
The memorial service in Cardiff centred on an artwork based on the theme ‘The Power of Words’ and a reading of the poem ‘We’re still Here’, which was written by Romani poet Damian Le Bas and read by Tom Hendry and David Phillips.
Welsh Assembly Member Julie Morgan hosted the service on the steps of the Senned building overlooking Cardiff Bay for the third year running, and welcomed the adults and children who had made it to the event.
“Although this event has been organised by the Cross-Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers, today we also remember the Jewish people, the disabled people and the gay people who suffered,” said Julie Morgan, who also leads the Welsh Assemblies Cross-Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers.
“We will remember those who died. But, we will also remember those who lived. For there where a great many people who survived the Holocaust with terrible scars. Scars, which for many people, never healed.”
Tom Hendry, from the Association of Gypsies and Travellers in Wales was at the event. Talking to the Travellers’ Times, he said that it was important that young Gypsies and Travellers were involved.
“It was the kids that created the artwork ‘The Power of Words’ which is the theme for this year,” he said.
“We sat the kids down and got them to write words that where important to them and then they wrote the words on themselves, the photographer Gareth Willey took the photographs and carpenter Jason Jervis made the frame to put them on.”
“The kids are from all over Wales – Merthyr, Pembrokeshire, Torfaen and Newport,” said Tom Hendry.
As well as Julie Morgan, two other Assembly Members were present.
“It’s wonderful that young people are helping to lead this event,” said Assembly Member Jane Hutt.
Assembly Member David Melding, who was also at the event, said the artwork was “a very very powerful work.”
“Holocaust Memorial Day is there to ensure that truth always prevails,” he told the Travellers’ Times.
“Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are sometimes overlooked and this event is a very powerful statement that remembers their place in the Holocaust.”
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust – who organise events and promotions across the UK - also released two short film clips themed on ‘The Power of Words’ to share on social media that had Romany Gypsies speaking about what the day meant to them. The first film features Richard, Anastasia and Ben Bennett. Richard, who lost 23,000 members of his extended family network on his Spanish Romany Gypsy Grandmothers’ side in the Holocaust when the Spanish Gypsies were deported by the Fascist Spanish Government to France and Nazi Germany, talks about how people’s attitude to him can completely change if he tells them he is a Romany Gypsy.
Nathalie Bennett appears again in the second film with Daniel Bennett and Stephanie Huntridge. Nathalie Bennett talks about the power of words to harm as well as hurt: “Do you remember when our car was vandalised and etched with the word ‘g*ppo’?” she says to her son Daniel.
Also to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, on 24 January 2018, the sixth Dora Love Prize for schools in Essex and Suffolk was awarded.
This year, there were two winners: Alde Valley Academy in Leiston, Suffolk, and East Bergholt High School, Suffolk. In addition, the judges declared William Edwards School in Grays, Essex the runner-up.
The Prize was created in 2012 in memory of Dora Rabinowitz Love, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, who came to live in Colchester in the late 1960s and died there on 26 October 2011, aged 88. In particular in the last 30 years of her life when she lived in Colchester, Dora had worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the Holocaust and the attitudes that had made it possible, and this included pointing out that the Nazis persecuted not only the Jews, but other groups of populations as well who they felt had no place in the German Volksgemeinschaft, among them the Sinti and Roma.
Speaking to the Travellers Times, Professor Rainer Schulze, a Holocaust historian at Essex University, said that the annual prize aimed to continue Dora Love’s work.
“The Dora Love Prize is about learning about the Holocaust with continuing discrimination and marginalisation of groups of populations today and to reinforce the link between the past and the present and the future – because no responsible behaviour now or tomorrow is possible without knowledge of the past,” said Rainer Schulze.
By Mike Doherty/TT News
Lead picture (Claudia) and ‘The Power of Words’ © Gareth Willey. Cardiff Senned pictures © Mike Doherty/Travellers Times. Dora Love Prize pictures © Essex University.