I remember sitting in the first meeting of the Holocaust Memorial Day committee in the offices of Charnwood Borough Council when I was a parish priest in Loughborough. This was back in the year 2000. It was a diverse, multi-faith and multi-ethnic group, but what were we to do?
We tried various things in the early years – including hiring the local cinema to show Schindler’s List for free.
The most significant thing we ever did, however, was to get a memorial stone placed in the town’s Queen’s Park. It is a memorial to victims of the holocaust and all genocides. The stone does not mark any local tragedy or event, it has no list of names. But it is symbolic of a scar on the face of the whole of humanity.
I beleive that this stone is a sign of greatness of heart of the local community. A symbol of ‘our sorrow’ with neither limit nor ownership on the ‘our’.
Every year since, it has been at the centre of a brief ceremony which concludes with all present being invited to place a small stone on the memorial. I have just seen a video clip of it here http://www.loughboroughecho.net/video/2011/01/31/holocaust-memorial-day-73871-28084797/ and it is just as I recall: quiet, sobering, slow and peaceful.
But above all else the ceremony has always seemed to me to be profoundly levelling. We are made equal in the face of remembered genocide. It brings us down to earth horribly. And it challenges us to commit to a way of living that makes what we are trying to imagine even more unthinkable.