Bromsgrove comes together to honour Holocaust Memorial Day - The Bromsgrove Standard

Bromsgrove comes together to honour Holocaust Memorial Day

Bromsgrove Editorial 29th Jan, 2024 Updated: 30th Jan, 2024   0

MORE than 100 people of all ages and backgrounds came together in Bromsgrove on Monday (January 29) for the town’s Holocaust Memorial Day service.

In the absence of Bromsgrove District Council chairman, Coun Sam Ammar, the council’s chief executive, Sue Hanley, reminded attendees the event was to remember those who died during Nazi persecution and genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The service led by Rev Ray Khan at the council’s Parkside Suite, featured a reflection speech from Maurice Armand, prayers of penitence from local schools and an Act of Commitment led by Deputy Lieutenant Sir Nicholas Lechmere Bt.

In attendance at the service was Town Crier, Kevin Ward, Jeff Evans, from The Royal British Legion, Court Leet bailiff, Philip Thomas, both district and county council representatives and pupils from Bromsgrove School, Parkside, Woodrush, St John’s, Alvechurch and Catshill and North and South Bromsgrove schools.

A moment of reflection

Maurice’s reflection speech touched on the harrowing stories of some of his great grandfather’s family which included five children, all of whom were French Jews.

Through years of research inspired by a photo of the family shown to Maurice, he has managed to establish the stories of two of the children, Pol and Fernande (photographed) who saw first hand what life as a persecuted Jew was like during the Second World War.

Maurice Armand’s great grandfather’s family. Maurice’s grandfather (bottom right), Pol, 5 at the time (left of him) and Fernande, 14 at the time (left of Pol). Photo taken at the turn of the 20th century. s

Pol was rounded up in Toulouse on July 30, 1944 and sent to Buchenwald first and eventually to Bergen Belsen, where he perished on his 54th birthday, 15 days after the liberation of the camp. He was married and was a talented muralist who’s painting adorned the walls in many cafes, bars and restaurants.

Maurice managed to find photographs of Pol’s artwork, as well as a photo of Pol in later life.

Pol’s sister, Fernande arrived at Auschwitz on September 23, 1942. Despite disguising her age, in an attempt to make herself appear 10 years younger and therefore fit for work, she was gassed immediately. She was 58 and unmarried.

Maurice has never seen a photo of Fernande in her adulthood.

During his speech, Maurice said: “whenever I think of Pol and Fernande I always see that black and white photograph.

“It is impossible for me to erase their young, innocent faces and to attempt to comprehend the fate that would eventually overtake them in later life.

“May their memories be for a blessing.”

The fragility of freedom

This year’s memorial theme surrounded the ‘fragility of freedom’. Pradeep Chaudhari led a Hindu prayer for peace followed by two songs from both North and South Bromsgrove High Schools.

To round off the poignant memorial, Bromsgrove School’s bugler, Thomas Punt performed The Last Post while the standard was lowered by a representative from The Royal British Legion.

Pupils from visiting schools were given bulbs to plant by Rev Ray Khan as a ‘sign of hope that peace and freedom may flourish in a shattered world’.

Following the memorial, Rev Ray Khan said: “it’s great to see the youth of today in attendance.

“Every year we remind ourselves of the importance of coming together and remembering what binds us, not what divides us.”

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