Kingston came together at the weekend for an event organised by the Kingston Inter Faith Forum, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day 2024.
Local leaders including Mayor Diane White and MP Sir Ed Davey joined religious leaders at Kingston University to pay tribute to those lost to the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is the name given to the systematic murder of over six million Jews undertaken by Nazi Germany during the Second World War – it is commemorated annually on January 27, the date the infamous Auschwitz death-camp was finally liberated by Soviet soldiers.
Rabbi of the Kingston Liberal Synagogue, Renee Pfertzel, who led the service, urged those present to not only remember the Holocaust, but to “commemorate all genocides,” including atrocities in both Bosnia and Rwanda.
He paid particular attention to the current situation in Xinjiang Province, China, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been accused of committing genocide against the majority Uighur population.
A solemn reading by Sir Ed Davey of a letter written by a Jewish mother to her two-year-old daughter during WWII was followed by a poignant rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem by the Kingston Liberal Synagogue Choir.
Rahima Mahmut, chair of campaign group Stop Uighur Genocide, then spoke about the plight of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, urging those present to “hold the world to its promise that never again should a community face the devastating crime of genocide”.
She detailed the lives of over 1.3m detained Uighurs, whom she described as living in “an open-air prison”, before adding they face “routine torture,” “systematic rape,” and even “organ harvesting.”
In response, she called on the audience to “take actions to help [her] people” by writing to elected representatives, talking to friends and family and researching the events in Xinjiang.
“As the Chinese regime seek to silence us, stories are our greatest weapon,” she concluded.
Following her speech, Mahmut, accompanied by her all-Uighur band the Silk Road Collective, took to the microphone to perform traditional Uighur music.
After the performance, the audience was then invited to light a candle in remembrance of victims of genocide.
As the service drew to a close, guests were invited to try a traditional Turkish dish called Noah’s Pudding.
It was provided by the Dialogue Society, a group aimed at increasing social cohesion in local communities.