Activity type: Private activity
Organisation name: Shropshire Council
Shropshire Council is continuing to grow a Holocaust cherry tree orchard of remembrance across the county, with the help of local primary school children and the interfaith forums in the county. We identify a primary school each year, and we are seeking to spread the orchard across the county and to cover all points of the compass in so doing.
This year will see national Holocaust Memorial Day marked with the planting of a memorial cherry tree at Longlands School in Market Drayton, a town in the north east of our very large and sparsely populated rural county.
Our plans have been revised from those issued earlier, due to the pandemic, and are now as follows. They have been influenced by the need to plant before mid March alongside not knowing what the pandemic progress will be by then and knowing that for sure the schools are closed until half term:
The tree will now be planted at the school on Friday 26th February, on which date a tree will also be planted at the Council’s Shirehall offices in Shrewsbury. This marks the date that the first Roma and Sinti transport arrived in Auchswitz. Both trees have been donated by the tree team at the Council, as part the Community Tree Scheme. The ceremonies will involve Council officers, and the reading of the Shropshire HMD prayer.
As the HMD 2021 theme is “be the light in the darkness” , we are building a narrative to use as an online gallery, around liberation, to go with the information that we will publish about the 2021 events. Shropshire Archives are providing us with some extremely useful information in this regard. This is focussed upon the British forces’ liberation of Bergen-Belsen, for which we have regimental records, and efforts within Shropshire through the Mayor of Shrewsbury’s Committee for Jewish refugee children, and through the records relating to Bunce Court School for German Jewish refugee children.
Our press release for the week in which HMD itself falls, will encourage people to follow the national HMD Trust lead and light a candle at home on the evening of HMD, and to sing up iif possible to the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum event to be held online that evening. Mereside school, where the first tree was planted in 2015, may be able to still have a small ceremony at their tree that they could film for us all.
Further dates are as follows
Friday 15th April: tree dressing ceremony at Shirehall, which then marks the Bergen-Belsen liberation. We will seek to involve both the interfaith forums and Mereside school, and I will talk with Sean McCarthy, our Armed Forces Covenant officer, about armed forces involvement. We will do a further press release highlighting the Archives resources.
Friday 9th July: tree dressing ceremony at Longlands, as the closest date to 11th July, when the genocide started in Srebrenica, and a date on which we fervently hope schools will be fully operational. This will involve the interfaith forums and also the local councillor as we will have had elections by then. We will be delighted to involve the current councillor, Cllr Aldcroft, if he is standing and is re-elected.
We will focus in the Longlands tree planting on the Trench Hall School resources and on the Mayor of Shrewsbury materials, as these will be more age appropriate for primary school children.
This follows on from the planting of the eleventh and twelfth trees with two small federated rural schools in the far south west, at Onny and Lydbury North, and the annual measuring of the first tree at Mereside. There will then be fourteen trees altogether, with flowers and fruits on the first trees as they flourish in the care of the local schoolchildren.
In other activities:
• All schools will be encouraged to arrange to light candles and to say the HMD Prayer that we use in Shropshire, since these represent safe online opportunities for meaningful commemoration of the Holocaust and other genocides.
• Schools who already have an HMD memorial cherry tree will be asked to measure it to see how it is growing, and to send in pictures of their trees and any ceremonies they are able to arrange.
• Mereside School worship in the Autumn Term has been about light in the darkness and incorporating resources from the Children Society’s website – light in dark times, so this will flow through into the 2021 theme of “Be the Light in the Darkness”. The plan is for the children to decorate a jar, put a candle into it and take this to the tree for their ceremony on HMD, on whichever day is safe and appropriate to do so. This will be filmed so we can keep bubbles intact.
Mrs Lois Dale, Rurality and Equalities Specialist, said:
“We have been very fortunate in the support we continue to have from the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum and the Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum, alongside local Shropshire Council councillors, in working with primary schools since 2015 on this initiative. Our joint efforts are very much focussed on helping local school children to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides and to learn about the importance of faiths working together.
In so doing, we echo the words of Mr Mark Michaels, for the South Shropshire interfaith Forum, who said in 2020 that: “As we lose the last survivors who can give a first-hand account, it becomes even more important that we continue to communicate this essential message to future generations.”
In planting these trees, our aim is to provide a fitting memorial for those who survived the Holocaust and other genocides, and for those who did not, and for our orchard to grow with the children and spread a message of peace.
Other organisation(s) involved
South Shropshire Interfaith Forum; Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum
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