By New Worker correspondent
VETERANS of the Second World War joined schoolchildren, ambassadors from Eastern Europe, local dignitaries and communists for a double event in Southwark to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
The first half of the event was hosted by the Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Abdul Mohamed, in the Amigo Hall, St George’s cathedral in Southwark.
It was opened by the entry of veterans in full uniform bearing their military standards and then the Mayor welcomed everyone.
Susan Pollack, born Zsuzsanna Biall on 9th September 1930 in Felsögód, Hungary, and held in the Vac ghetto and Monor internment camp, gave an account of her experiences in the second would war.
In May 1944, with her mother and brother, she was moved to Auschwitz, in the last transport of Hungarians. "Day after day in a dark, closed wagon, no hygiene, no food or water, people dying".
Her mother was gassed on arrival; her brother survived a bit longer, in the squad moving bodies to the ovens.
Susan was transferred to the Gubben slave labour camp and finally force-marched to Bergen-Belsen. "On liberation, I was virtually a corpse, unable to walk, and would soon have died." The liberation of that camp came only just in time for her.
With other young people she was sent to Sweden and then to Canada, where she married fellow-Hungarian Abraham Pollack, a survivor of Mauthausen.
Many years later she worked for the Samaritans, saying that it helped her cope with her memories to be able to help other people in distress. And she also took up voluntary work in a hospice. “It is my therapy,” she said.
She also continues to speak out about her experiences: “"Because I was there, I speak for those who can’t. The great evil that pervaded so many minds in a civilised country destroyed more than 50 members of my family. It is a lesson for all time: will later generations stand up for the rights of others, or remain the silent majority?”
Susan’s testimony was followed by music from Southbank Sinfonia, the recital of [A small station of Treblinka] by Wladyslav Szlengel by pupils from Notre Dame Secondary School.
A film, Journeys, was shown, Labour MP Margaret Hodge gave an address about the impact of the Holocaust on her family and the memorial candle was lit by Susan Pollack and Avram and Vera Schaufeld – also Holocaust survivors.
Then the memorial prayer, Kaddish, was said by Rabbi the Reverend Alan Greenblatt.
People then left the hall and crossed the road for the second part of the event at the Soviet War Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial tree in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park (the grounds of the Imperial War Museum).
The parade was led by the veterans carrying their standards. Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador, told those assembled that the day was also the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad after 900 days – a feat of courage and endurance that helped to tip the balance of the Second World War against the Nazis.
Wreaths were then laid at the Holocaust tree and the Soviet War Memorial to remember the Red Army and the role it played, at great cost, in delivering the world from Nazism including a floral tribute laid by Daphne Liddle on behalf of the New Communist Party of Britain.
The Exhortation, ending with the pledge: “We will remember” was recited by Stan Ballard, a veteran of the Arctic Convoys, a two-minute silence and then the Last Post.