Office of the Chief Rabbi

Chief Rabbi addresses the Yom HaShoah National Commemoration

On Sunday the Chief Rabbi joined thousands of people marking Yom HaShoah – the annual Jewish remembrance day for victims of the Holocaust – at the Barnet Copthall Stadium.

Addressing the national commemorative event, the Chief Rabbi reflected on the enduring memory of those who perished.

“Across the Jewish world, there are the shadows of those whose souls were taken from us, but will never leave us,” he said.

Among those attending was London’s newly elected Mayor, Sadiq Khan, Israel’s Ambassador Mark Regev and a number of Holocaust survivors.

You can listen to the Chief Rabbi’s address below. A full transcript follows.

“Valerie and I have just returned from a visit to the Dutch Jewish Community. During the Shoah, more than three quarters of the Jews of Holland were murdered. While in Amsterdam, we visited a Jewish School popularly known as ‘the Cheder’ it caters for children aged 3-18. There are only 130 children in the school.

When the school was founded, the Jewish community applied for state aid. However the Education authorities, turned down the application because, they said, there are too few children in your school to justify Government assistance.

‘They are the shadows of the children who should have been in our classrooms’

The community appealed the decision, and in their appeal letter they wrote: Alongside the children who are sitting at desks in our classrooms, there are shadows. They are the shadows of the children who should have been in our classrooms but whose souls were taken from us. It is not our fault that there are so few children in our school. When the Dutch education authorities received that appeal, they decided to make an exception and ‘the Cheder’ is state aided to this day.

Throughout the Jewish world, in our shuls and our schools, our kindergartens and in our youth centres – there are shadows. When we mourn the six million victims of the Shoah, amongst them were more than one million children. They never lived to become adults, to raise families and for the vast majority of them, there has been no one to say Kaddish.  One million shadows are with us all the time.

‘There were so many heroes who refused to go like lambs to the slaughter’

The full name of Yom Hashoah is Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah – Holocaust and Heroism Day. And we have heard about the heroism in the Warsaw Ghetto. There were so many heroes who refused to go like lambs to the slaughter. After the Shoah, we saw new types of heroes emerge – our survivors. Extraordinary men and women who have been determined to live normal lives, to raise wonderful families, to write and to speak about their experiences. They are a remarkable resource of information and inspiration for all within our society. But they will not live forever.

And so there is now a need for a new generation of heroes. We must be the people to guarantee that the memories of the Shoah will always be with us. A recent ADL global survey reveals that 46% of the world’s adult population have never heard of the Holocaust and amongst those who have heard of the Holocaust, 32%  believe that it is a myth or that the details are grossly exaggerated.

‘We owe it to the children who perished in the Shoah – the shadows who will never leave us’

Here in the UK we are blessed to have so many outstanding organisations, raising the profile of Holocaust awareness and spreading Holocaust education. And thanks to the Prime Minister, our Holocaust Foundation seeks to ensure that our memories of the horrors of the past will guarantee that here we will have a society which will be protected and which will have a bright and positive future.

In addition, we are the ones who need to come forward to spread the message, to guarantee that the Shoah will never be forgotten. We owe it to the memory of the six million. We owe it to our simply remarkable survivors. And we owe it to the children who perished in the Shoah – the shadows who will never leave us.

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