Cambridge Pledge to Equality and Respect
Executive Councillor for Communities and Deputy Leader of the Council, Anna Smith explains why we mark Holocaust Memorial Day as a City affirming Cambridge as a place which pledges to equality, asking citizens to respect one another, standing up to hatred and prejudice in all its forms, and to stand alongside the persecuted.
EXEC CLLR ANNA SMITH: It is a real privilege to welcome you to this Holocaust Memorial Day civic event with our theme of ‘Torn from Home’. It’s a privilege as a member of Cambridge City Council, because we strive to be a welcoming city, which celebrates diversity and challenges hate. We are proud to support this event. And it’s a privilege because as a History teacher, I know all too well the importance of the saying, “if we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it”. 27th January 2019 marks the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. And on Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) we pause to commemorate and remember and mourn so many millions murdered by the Nazis. This day also marks subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. We are privileged to hear from some survivors of genocide in today’s civic commemoration service. Across the globe there are ongoing atrocities perpetrated against groups because of their ethnic or faith or sexual identity. We need to learn from all those who have suffered from persecution. This year we are remembering through the theme, ‘torn from home’. We think of all of those who are forced to flee their homes for their own safety, and of those who were ripped from their homes by authorities. In particular, at this ceremony, we remember the victims of the Holocaust and those of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. I’ve been to visit the city of Paris in France, and of the things I’ve noticed are the memorial plaques which have been put up all over the city. They mark mainly Jewish residents and students who lived and studied in those places. They were torn from home at that spot and died at the hands of Nazi anti-semitism. The plaques are the result of painstaking research and a commitment not to forget. (The ones outside schools simply list the number of students who were lost. But the ones outside apartments list, where possible, names and ages, and the date they were dragged away. First to places in the city, and then, if they survived that, onto concentration camps). ‘Almost all say the same thing ‘n’oublions jamais’ – let us never forget.’ There are similar memorials in many German cities, in the pavements in front of homes. It is a powerful reminder of their lives and tragic deaths. And it is also a reminder to us that we should never be complacent. That hatred and racism can invade our day-to-day lives in the most horrific way. It still shocks and saddens me that this tragedy took place in my lifetime. And that today people around the world are still suffering from hatred and persecution. And this should spur us all on to challenge hatred and prejudice in all its forms, and to stand alongside the persecuted. For those who are elected to serve the people of Cambridge as City Councillors, there are many civic duties to perform, but for me, this event is particularly poignant and important. It marks the start of the calendar year in Cambridge when we renew our ‘Equality Pledge’ to affirm the dignity of all people, their right to respect and their right to equality of opportunity. As a city, we seek to create One Cambridge, Fair for all. We value and celebrate the strength that comes from difference and the positive contribution that diversity brings to our community. Our aspiration is for Cambridge and the wider region to be safe, welcoming and inclusive, and I confirm this commitment to you today.