First, an apology. As last year, I went to the Memorial Ceremony, and waited by the Memorial on 28 January, and set up the video. Unfortunately, ten minutes later I was told that it was in reverse order from the previous year, and the talks were already taking place in the Captain’s Club. I was unable to wait. For now, here is the excellent report in today’s Christchurch Times. It is worth buying a copy, the pictures are very good indeed. The pages are scanned and will be presented larger when the current issue has expired, in a week. Note that the header image is taken from last year’s ceremony.
THE STORY of a little Jewish girl called Gisela, torn from her family home in Germany, was the centrepiece of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance event in Christchurch. Ben Thomas relayed the story of his mother, Gisela Freiberg-Thomas, who was one of more than 900 Jewish refugees who sailed from Hamburg, bound for what they hoped was safety in Cuba or the USA.
But both these countries and Canada refused to let the refugees disembark and in the end Gisela was fortunate to land in the UK. The harrowing tale – more than 200 of the refugees were returned to Europe where they were murdered by the Nazis – was listened to by children from Christchurch Junior School, Priory School, Burton Primary School and Highcliffe St Mark School. They learned that talented artist Gisela had eventually settled in their own town, in Mudeford.
Leading the service at the Captains Club Hotel, Canon Charles Stewart said: “We don’t just need to remember, we need to inform people so we can do all we can to play our part in making sure this never happens again.” He reminded guests that 2019 marks 25 years since the Rwandan genocide and 40 years since the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia.
Mayor Lesley Dedman told the children about a Jewish refugee she had come to know as a child herself, living in Bushey in Hertfordshire. “We all know what home means to us; it’s where we feel safe and happy,” she said.
The service also heard from Josephine Jackson. whose family had taken in a Jewish refugee from the Kindertransport rescue train, and also from Betty Bellington-Smith.
She read a poem and explained how nearly 250,000 Roma gypsy people like her had been rounded up and murdered by the Nazis.
Following the service, and led by flag-bearers from the Royal British Legion and Royal Navy Association, guests laid wreaths at the town’s Holocaust Memorial on Christchurch Quay. Rabbi Maurice Michaels from Bournemouth Reform Synagogue sang a prayer of mourning. He said he was ‘very pleased’ to welcome so many children.