Dr Martin Stern MBE, a resilient survivor of the Holocaust, is set to be the esteemed guest at Leeds’ upcoming Holocaust Memorial Day, an event dedicated to reflecting on the atrocities of the past and fostering unity. Organized by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, the commemoration will unfold at City Varieties on Sunday, 28th January at 2 pm.
Dr Stern, who endured the horrors of Westerbork Concentration Camp in his native Holland and the Theresienstadt Ghetto in the Czech Republic alongside his sister Erika, will share his poignant experiences in a keynote speech. The event, centred around the theme ‘Fragility of Freedom,’ serves as an international day of remembrance for the six million Jewish individuals and countless others who perished during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur, under Nazi persecution.
The Lord Mayor will preside over the ceremony, expressing anticipation for the participation of diverse communities in Leeds. The commemoration will feature a specially crafted performance by Leeds Heritage Theatre’s Leeds Actors in Training (LAIT). This production, themed around Gregory Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide, will depict a fictional character, ‘Jean,’ navigating through the ten stages, exploring their contemporary manifestations through spoken word and movement.
Cantor Rachel Weston will offer a moving memorial prayer, and representatives from various persecuted groups, including Holocaust survivors, disabled individuals, and members of the LGBT+ community, will illuminate candles during the reading of seven statements of commitment.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, said: “It gives me the greatest pleasure to host Holocaust Memorial Day and welcome Dr Stern to Leeds.
“During my recent visit to the Czech Republic, I visited the Terezin (Theresienstadt) Ghetto to witness for myself the product of hate, and I cannot begin to imagine the suffering that took place there.
“Dr Stern’s experiences of where hate can lead highlights everything we as a city seek to fight against, but his story is also inspirational in that amid such brutality and adversity, humanity, kindness and compassion still shone through.
“The horrors of genocide have touched many peoples over the last eighty years, and Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity for all communities in Leeds to come together, remember those lost, and learn the lessons of the past to help create a better, more harmonious future.
“I look forward to welcoming as many people as possible to the event from all communities of Leeds.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis said: “Holocaust Memorial Day plays an important role in not only remembering the victims of genocide but in teaching the lessons of where hate, racism, and xenophobia of all kinds can lead.
“Leeds is a global city that seeks to promote peace and harmony not only in its local communities but also at the national and international level. Holocaust Memorial Day plays an important role in not only reminding us of these past horrors but in reaffirming our commitment to stopping such inhumanity in the future.”
Holocaust Memorial Day at City Varieties Music Hall on January 28, 2024, promises to be a poignant and reflective occasion. While the event is free, limited seats are available, and interested attendees can secure their spots through the Box Office at 0113 243 0808 or www.leedsheritagetheatres.com.