Hounslow Council marks Holocaust Memorial Day

The Council hosted a special event marking Holocaust Memorial Day at Cranford Community College, on Friday 26 January.

Published: Friday, 26th January 2024

Martine Oborne watches as Mayor of Hounslow, Cllr Afzaal Kiani, lights candles at the Holocaust Memorial Event

The Leader of the Council, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, Mayor of Hounslow, Cllr Afzaal Kiani, Charanjit Singh from Friends of Faith, and others, joined students and staff from the school, to hear the story of a Holocaust survivor, Dr Martin Stern, who lived through the Holocaust as a small boy.

Hounslow Area Dean, Martine Oborne, led the proceedings.

Martin explained that he was born in 1938, in Hilversum, Holland. His father was a Jewish architect from Berlin and his mother was also German and trained as an architect, although she was not Jewish. The family was joined by Martin’s sister, Erica, in 1942. But their mother sadly became ill and died shortly after and their father had to return to the farm near Amsterdam, where he’d been in hiding from the Nazis.

Martin talked about the people who risked their lives to care for him and his sister and the terror they experienced, all because they were recognised as Jewish in Nazi law. When he was discovered and removed from school, Martin was sent with Erica to Westerbork transit camp. They were later transferred to Terezin ghetto in Czechoslovakia, where they were finally liberated in 1945. Martin was just six years old. 

Dr Martin Stern talked about why it’s important to him to share his story, he said:

“Like most Holocaust survivors I kept quiet all my life, although that doesn’t mean that the injury isn’t there. But I had a heart attack and I nearly died, and it brought it home to me that if I didn’t talk, nobody would know; and there are people who deny that the Holocaust happened, and others who say that it wasn’t as bad as Jews claim. So since then, I’ve been speaking out.”

Dr Martin Stern spoke on Holocaust Memorial Day 2024 about why it’s important to him to share his story

Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, Leader of Hounslow Council, said:

"We are proud to be among those keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive today. I’d like to thank everyone here for being a part of this collective memory and share my gratitude with Dr Martin Stern, for joining us and sharing his extraordinary family history.

"When we consider the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, the fragility of freedom, our shock and sadness at recent events in Israel and Gaza come to mind. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured and held captive, and those who fear for and who have lost loved ones, both in the Middle East and beyond.

"In current times it is important to look back and learn, but we must also come together, as we are here today, and recognise people’s concerns. We must listen to one another, treat each other with compassion and respect and work to become a stronger and more united society.”

Charanjit Singh, from Friends of Faith, said:

“We, members of Hounslow Friends of Faith, feel very privileged to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day with Hounslow Council at Cranford Community College. This year we reflect on and remember the six million Jews and others who lost their lives during the Holocaust, and subsequent genocides. The theme this year is ‘The fragility of freedom’, and we note how precious it is to hear first-hand testimonies from survivors and their descendants.”

This event follows on from Hounslow Council’s well-attended public event marking Holocaust Memorial Day at Hounslow Library, on Monday 22 January.

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