Today in City Hall, we are hosting an important remembrance event, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution. Between 1941 and 1945, over six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis. This systematic attempt at annihilating the Jewish people accompanied a brutal programme of persecution of anyone who threatened the Nazi’s ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’. Roma and Sinit people, black people, Slavic people (especially those from Poland or Russia), LGBT people, disabled people, trade unionists and political opponents were all targeted by the regime and their collaborators.
Holocaust Memorial Day also serves as a day of remembrance for those killed and persecuted in subsequent genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
I am particularly struck by this year’s theme of ‘Stand Together’ – a message which is fitting at this current turbulent moment in national and global politics.
We know that the poison of antisemitism is on the rise across the world, and our own city is not immune. As an administration, we are working closely with and listening to Bristol’s Jewish communities to root out antisemitism wherever we find it in our city and our society. As survivors of the Shoah tell their story in City Hall today, I hope people across Bristol will be reminded that stamping out antisemitism in our midst is an urgent task for us all.
Holocaust Memorial Day also prompts us to reflect on our humanitarian duty to stand together with all those fleeing persecution today. I am proud that Bristol is a City of Sanctuary, with a proud tradition of extending solidarity and a welcome to those who have come here over the decades. We offer our ongoing support to those who come to Bristol in search of a haven, and celebrate the contribution refugees make to life in our city.
Bristol is a global city, home to over 45 religious faiths and 92 languages and residents who come from over 180 countries of birth. Wherever persecution and racism raises its head in the world, it is felt here in Bristol – by our families, by our neighbours, by our friends. This spirit of solidarity struck me vividly when religious leaders from across Bristol joined together in City Hall in condemnation of the terrorist attacks on mosques in New Zealand in March last year.
Standing together in the face of racism, intolerance and persecution means living out the values we want to see reflected in our communities, in our city, and in our society. It means remaining united as a city in our continued belief in freedom, democracy and the right of communities to live together in peace. We wear these beliefs proudly and refute extremism in all its forms. I extend my welcome to all those attending the commemorations in City Hall today, and to all those who are reflecting and remembering loved ones across Bristol.