Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 was marked in Wales at the National Service of Commemoration at Cardiff City Hall on Friday 27 January. The service, organised jointly by the Welsh Government and the City of Cardiff Council, with support from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, brought members of various communities together to remember the terrible atrocities of the past, hear from those affected by the Holocaust and to ponder the theme for 2017; How can life go on?
The 500 attendees included politicians, representatives of organisations, members of the Jewish community and many other faiths, as well as members of the public.
Led by the Reverend Canon Stewart Lisk, honorary Chaplain to Cardiff Council, the service included readings by the First Minister of Wales, Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones AM, the Rt. Hon the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Monica Walsh, and the Leader of the City of Cardiff Council, Cllr Phil Bale.
Representatives from various organisations participated including Stonewall Cymru, the Consular Association in Wales, Cancer Research Wales (The Lord Mayor’s charity), the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women for Cardiff and South Wales, Race Equality First and Displaced People in Action.
Music was provided by members of the Cardiff and Vale Youth Choir and String Quartet, conducted by Guy Harbottle.
Among those talking about their experiences linked with the Holocaust were two pupils, Awen Fflur Edwards from Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor and Rhys Wyn Jones from The Maelor School in Wrexham. Awen and Rhys participated in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project which is supported by the Welsh Government.
Eva Clarke, who was born in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria on 29 April 1945 just a day after the gas chambers had been blown up, spoke about her mother’s experience and her own in dealing with the aftermath of such an event.
In response to the theme How can life go on? and the challenges of rebuilding and regrowth, the attendees heard from Arwel Michael, the Chair of the Ystradgynlais Heritage Forum. Arwel spoke of the link the village of Cwmgiedd in South Wales has with a village in the Czech Republic, Lidice. Lidice was raised to the ground and totally erased from all maps by the occupying forces of Nazi Germany. All that survived was a pear tree; a sapling from that very tree has now been planted in Cwmgiedd. Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales from 2008 to 2016 was invited to read her poem Birdsong, commissioned by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
Following the service, attendees were able to see the work of the artist David Garner who debuted his work B for Defiance: Retold and B for Defiance: Reworked.
Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries displayed the story of their Garden of Reflection, created as part of HMDT’s arts programme Reflections on loss and living.