|Daphne Liddle lays flowers for the NCP|
By New Worker correspondent
THE SMALL cinema at the Imperial War Museum was packed – standing room only – with a strange mixture of Second World War veterans, schoolchildren, representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet republics and local campaigners – along with an MP and various local Town Hall dignitaries.
They had all come together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, themed around the message: “Speak up, Speak Out” about racism, fascism, discrimination and injustice to prevent such horrors happening again.
After a short film and a dramatic presentation of the famous poem by Pastor Neimoller “First they came…” by pupils from Notre Dame RC Girls’ Secondary School, situated opposite the museum, Vera Schaufeld gave a vivid account of her experiences as a child of the “kinder transport” that brought threatened Jewish children to Britain.
She spoke of her sadness and confusion at being put on a train by her parents with hundreds of other children and of the hundreds of parents waving goodbye to their children. None of them realized at the time it would be the last time they saw each other.
Vera said she was lucky in Britain to be taken in by a good, kind, Christian family who, after hearing the news of Kristalnacht, had taken part in forming committees to pressure the British government to move to rescue Jews from Europe who were threatened by the Nazis.
They saved some of the children but they could not save their parents. And when war between Britain and Germany broke out the kinder transports stopped. The last train was stopped in the station and the hundreds of children on board had to disembark. Not one of them survived the war.
On the theme of Speak up, Speak Out, Vera stressed the importance of those ordinary people who had been moved, formed committees and campaigned.
In her later life as a teacher of English as a second language, Vera sought out work among the refugee children of the Ugandan Asians who came to Britain in the 1960s and subsequently many other refugee children.
After she had spoken Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman gave the memorial address and lead prayers.
Then the company moved to the grounds of the Museum, where wreaths were laid at the Holocaust Memorial Tree and at the Soviet War Memorial.
Among those laying wreaths were veteran organisations including the Arctic Convoy Club, representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet Republics, the local Mayor Lorraine Lauder MBE, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, former Labour MP Bob Wareing, members of the Moscow Second Guards Rifle Red Army re-enactment group, the Marx Memorial Library and the New Communist Party.