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York Minster's Holocaust Memorial Commemoration

By Leanne Woodhurst

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This commemoration provides an opportunity to reflect on the traumatic impact of genocide

The historic Chapter House will be the setting for York Minster’s annual Holocaust Memorial Commemoration on Wednesday 24 January. 600 candles set out on the floor in the form of the Star of David will be lit in memory of more than 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis in World War Two.

The cathedral’s commemoration is one of a series of events taking place across the City of York during Holocaust Memorial Week. The theme for this year’s commemoration is The Power of Words.

Following Evensong, attended by representatives from York’s Jewish community, other faith communities and refugee support groups, there will be a commemoration in the Chapter House for readings, music, poetry, prayers and periods of silence for quiet reflection. There will also be a recital of the Kaddish, the Jewish Mourner’s Prayer.

Edith Jayne will read from WH Auden’s poem, Refugee Blues. Born in Vienna in 1936 to a Jewish father and Catholic mother, Edith’s family escaped Nazi occupied Austria travelling via Portugal to the United States where they arrived as refugees when she was just three years old. More than 40 members of Edith’s extended family were murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

Dr Dolf Mogendorff is a retired academic and the son of Dutch Holocaust survivors who has been involved in Holocaust education for more than two decades.  Dr Mogendorff will read letters by his aunt and her husband, written on the day before they were sent from a Dutch transit camp to Auschwitz.

Sue Dorsey will read an account by Michael Etkind, a Polish Jewish survivor of the Pilsen death camp. Sue was for many years a governor and Chair of the Jewish Primary School and served for many years on the Leeds Jewish Representative Council including three years as President.

Retired solicitor Mike Dorsey will read from The Power of Words by Russian writer and war correspondent, Vasily Grossman. Mike has long been involved in Jewish community matters in Leeds and the region and is currently a member (and past Chair) of the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education in Leeds. A member of Middlesbrough’s refugee community will read Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem, We are all Refugees.

Michael Barrie will recite the Memorial Prayer. Michael is currently Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Steering Group for City of York Council. He has organised and participated in Holocaust Memorial commemorations for over 20 years and was Chair of the Holocaust Survivors Association for eight years.

Commenting on the event, The Dean of York, The Very Reverend Dr Vivienne Faull said:

“This commemoration provides an opportunity to reflect on the traumatic impact of genocide. The words of those who suffered, those who died and those who survived, bear witness to unimaginable cruelty and depravity. But their words also describe immense courage, resilience, forgiveness and renewal.”

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