Published Tuesday, 28th January 2020
We held a hugely successful Holocaust Memorial Day service at Sutton Grammar School on Monday morning, commemorating 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
The event, opened by The Mayor and compered by Councillor Ruth Dombey, saw residents, local schoolchildren, members of Sutton’s Jewish community and representatives from the Council stand together to commemorate the survivors and those killed as a result of genocide, from the Holocaust through to present day.
Survivor Mrs Eve Gill delivered an emotional speech about her experiences growing up in Vienna during the Nazi occupation of Austria before the outbreak of World War Two and being evacuated to Britain to escape the horrors that would soon come to mainland Europe.
Mrs Gill also took questions from the audience before local school children took the stage to share some musical pieces and poetry readings reflecting on the theme of Stand Together.
Videos explaining the Roma and Sinti peoples’ suffering at the hands of the Nazis and an interview with an Auschwitz survivor followed before Sutton and District United Synagogue’s Reverend Shmully Aronson provided some closing thoughts and finished with a prayer.
We would like to thank Sutton Grammar School for hosting the event and the students and teachers from Cheam High, Greenshaw High, Sutton High and Wallington County Grammar Schools for their attendance on the day, along with all the speakers and contributors who helped make the morning a success.
We would also like to thank June Lewis, a member of the congregation at Sutton Synagogue for providing us with her reflections on the event - and thanks to Graeme Lewis for providing the photographs. “The hall was packed with school children, boys and girls, but there was complete silence as Mrs. Eve Gill told her story,” June said.
“They were sat in awe - and rapt concentration - as if listening to a fairy tale told by their parents. But it was quite a different story that Mrs. Gill was telling them.”
“She was describing what happened to her as a young Jewish girl born in 1923 in Vienna and her childhood in the 1930s to early 1940s under German Nazi control.
“She is a holocaust survivor and, in great detail, she told her story, as she remembered every minute of her escape and arrival in England through the Kindertransport, followed by her trials and tribulations once in England. She received a standing ovation.”
Mrs Lewis also provided her thoughts on Reverend Aronson’s speech closing the event.
“He said he could not come to terms with or imagine such a large number of people as six million, added to 75 million casualties of World War 2 in general,” she said.
“He grew up hearing personal stories from his grandparents - all survivors - yet he questioned whether he understood what they actually went through. We all have a choice to add to the hatred that kills people emotionally and physically every single day, or to educate oneself and others around to choose love, respect and acceptance of one another.”
The Council will be continuing to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of World War Two ending with a VE Day Exhibition in Sutton Central Library on Friday 8 May 2020. We would like contributions from residents and local school children telling stories of Sutton in the War, so please get in touch if you have any poems, biographies, drawings, photographs or even stories you would like to share with us.
Please email VE75@sutton.gov.uk to submit your ideas or to find out more about getting involved.
Photo credit: Graeme Lewis