Young and old from all communities across the North East came together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
From schoolchildren sharing poems, to special services, dozens of groups from the region took time to remember the victims of the Holocaust yesterday.
Monday marked the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history, and events were held across the North East to mark the day.
At Newcastle Central Station, pupils handed out luggage labels with poems they had written on the atrocities to commuters.
Children from St John’s Primary, Atkinson Road Primary, Hotspur Primary and Excelsior Academy were involved in the New Writing North project, working with poet Bob Beagrie to create poems remembering the children of the Kindertransport.
This was the network of trains which rescued thousands of families after the war.
‘Journeys’ was the national theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, relating to the journeys travelled by victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
Mr Beagrie, from Middlesbrough, said: “It was a very interesting project and challenging, especially because some of the children were so young.
“So it was about finding a way of delivering the material and responding to it without traumatising them too much.”
In North Tyneside, the council organised a Holocaust Memorial Day Service and everyone was invited to write a message to Holocaust victims on luggage labels, as part of the ‘journeys’ theme.
Gay Keenaghan, who came to North Tyneside on the kindertransport from Vienna as a child, was the keynote speaker at the service and Rabbi Aaron Lipsey lit a candle on the Holocaust Memorial Plaque.
North Tyneside Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn chaired the event.
She said: “This is a very special service which brings together people of all ages and faiths.
“It is a time for all of us to reflect and remember the victims of truly dreadful atrocities which have taken place over the last 70 years and sadly continue in some parts of the world today.”
In Durham, a special service took place at the cathedral yesterday when around 350 pupils from 14 County Durham secondary schools heard from Holocaust survivor, Ruth Barnett.
This is be the fourth year Durham County Council’s equalities team and the cathedral’s education department have held Holocaust Memorial Day, with the Holocaust Educational Trust organising the testimony.
Charlotte Rowbotham, head of education at Durham Cathedral said it was humbling.
She said: “It is a privilege for us to welcome Ruth Barnett to the event and her testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced.”
Marking the memorial day, Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s book of commitment in the House of Commons.
He said: “Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
“I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ernest Gibson, also led a special morning service at South Shields Town Hall to mark the event.
Young people from the town’s Mortimer Community College and St Joseph’s Academy also contributed accompanied by children from primary schools in the area.
A ‘Tree of Hope’ formed part of the service to enable children to place their ‘luggage labels leaves’ upon its branches with their pledges.