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Genocide survivors mark Holocaust Memorial Day in Brent

PUBLISHED: 09:48 02 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:25 03 February 2016

Holocaust survivor Eve Kuglar, 84, tells of her childhood under Nazi occupation

Holocaust survivor Eve Kuglar, 84, tells of her childhood under Nazi occupation

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Worshippers of all faiths and ages gathered at Brent Civic Centre to mark Holocaust Memorial Day to make sure the horrors of genocide and lessons of the past are never forgotten.

Sokphal Din remembers the day his father, uncle and cousins were taken by soldiers at the outbreak of the Cambodian genocide in the 1970sSokphal Din remembers the day his father, uncle and cousins were taken by soldiers at the outbreak of the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s

Community leaders joined with school children for an afternoon of song, prayer and moving testimonies from residents who fled to Brent after experiencing war and genocide in their own countries.

Holocaust survivor Eve Kuglar, 84, who wrote the memoir “Shattered Crystals”, told crowds about her family’s fight to survive the Nazi’s “final solution” in the Second World War.

She said: “Six million. The reality of this number is almost too much to grasp. I was two years old when Hitler came to power.

Author Monica Porter speaks of the capture of her mother, the 1940s singer and actress Vali Racz by the Hungarian GestapoAuthor Monica Porter speaks of the capture of her mother, the 1940s singer and actress Vali Racz by the Hungarian Gestapo

“I’d spend the next six years living under the Nazis. It is not true that Jews just sat back and let themselves be caught and murdered.”

In keeping with the international scope of the memorial service, Brent resident Sokphal Din, whose own family disappeared in the Cambodian genocide, gave harrowing testimony of the day the Khmer Rouge set siege to his city at the start of a bitter conflict that would take millions of lives in the 1970s.

He said: “They looked very mean, full of hate and they had no mercy for anyone who refused to obey their orders.

Members of the Brent community gathered to commemorate those who have lost their lives to genocide and warMembers of the Brent community gathered to commemorate those who have lost their lives to genocide and war

“My father, uncle and cousins were taken away by [dictator] Pol Pot’s army along with professional people: teachers, doctors, actors, singers and many educated men. All left their wives and children behind. I never saw my father again from that day.”

Choirs from the Jewish Free School and London Cantorial Singers provided musical accompaniment while Rabbi Simon J Harris sang a memorial prayer against a backdrop of reflections including: “Learning lessons from the past to create a safer, better future.”

Addressing the crowds on this year’s theme of “Don’t stand by”, author Monica Porter, also spoke of the capture of her mother, Vali Racz, a celebrated Hungarian singer who was imprisoned by the Gestapo during in Budapest’s notorious Hotel Majestic.

The choir of the Jewish Free School gave a moving performance to honour Jews and minorities who were lost to the HolocaustThe choir of the Jewish Free School gave a moving performance to honour Jews and minorities who were lost to the Holocaust

She was joined by local schoolchildren in reminding those present: “It was just ordinary people like you and me who were killed; it was just ordinary people who were complicit and it was ordinary people who resisted.”

Speaking after the event Cllr Mohammed Butt, chair of Brent Council said:“Brent’s Holocaust and Genocide Memorial event was very poignant, bringing together members of all faiths, cultures and backgrounds to remember all those that were murdered and that have suffered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution and subsequent Genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

“Having survivors of these horrific events share their story and experience with us was an honour and we must learn from what they have shared to continue to stand up against persecution and hatred. We are a borough that celebrates and embraces all our communities and we will continue to stand together against hatred.”

London Cantorial Singers gave a solemn and poignant performanceLondon Cantorial Singers gave a solemn and poignant performance

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