11 Mar Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration
Highbury Grove School hosted Islington Borough Council’s Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony on Wednesday 27 January as part of special commemoration events taking place nationally. Guests included the Deputy Mayor of Islington Council, other councillors and representatives from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
The event was opened with a piece from the Senior Woodwind Ensemble playing ‘At An Old Trysting Place’. After introductory comments from Mr Sherrington and a statement of support from Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, the assembly involved thoughtful contributions from students, including from the student leaders, Faith Ambassadors and Paperclip equalities group. Their presentations were built around this year’s theme of ‘Don’t Stand By’, looking at why people allow terrible tragedies to occur without challenging them. Iqra (Year 11) shared her experiences from a recent History GCSE trip to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp near Berlin, while Rhiann (Year 13) explained the psychological research behind bystanding. Casseem (Year 13) and Husna (Year 10) offered contemporary views about what the Holocaust means to them, relating the commemoration to recent events in Syria. The school’s Faith Ambassadors and Paperclip then gave their presentations, looking at genocides throughout history.
Pupils were moved by the stories of Holocaust survivor Janine Webber. Janine described the harrowing events that shaped her childhood as she grew up in Nazi-occupied Poland. Students were saddened as she told the story of her father’s death and her eventual separation from her family:
“One day we were warned that the Gestapo would be coming, so my parents dug a hole under the wardrobe
which was in our room, and when we heard the German soldiers approaching we hid in the hole: my mother,
my brother and myself. But there was no room for my father and my grandmother.”
Another haunting story was the time Janine saw the boots of the Nazi officer who murdered her father as she cowered beneath her bed. The image haunted her, and she continued to experience nightmares until she was in her 70s.
Between guest speakers, Cashanna (Year 9) gave a moving solo performance, singing ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’. Later, the Senior String Ensemble played ‘Capriol Suite for Strings, 5’, by P Warlock.
A second guest speaker highlighted the injustices still faced by communities around the world today. Ratip Alsulaimen, a Syrian refugee living in London, shared his thoughts on the current Syrian crisis and the importance of showing compassion to others who, through no fault of their own, find themselves driven from their homes. The thought-provoking discussion was an important reminder that from our privileged position in the UK, we have a moral responsibility to care for those who reach out to us for help.