Saturday 27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK, it is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945.
To mark this poignant day, when communities can get together to remember all victims of genocide, Newark and Sherwood District Council hosted a wreath laying at the statue of Irena Sendler alongside the Polish Consulate and Newark Town Council.
The statue of Irena Sendler was unveiled in 2021 and has since become a focus for many in the community to remember not just those killed during the Holocaust, but those who bravely stood up to the tyranny and saved lives through their actions.
During the Second World War, Irena Sendler, worked at the Department for Social Welfare and Public Health of the City of Warsaw, German-occupied Poland. During her time there she worked tirelessly to help protect and rescue many Jewish children and their families.
She was part of a network of workers and volunteers from that department, mostly women, who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She would provide them with false identity documents and shelter them with willing Polish families or in orphanages and other care facilities, including Catholic convents, saving those children from the Holocaust.
The theme of this year’s event is the ‘Fragility of Freedom’. The freedom of persecuted groups and their supporters are eroded, but even in these circumstances there are those willing to risk their own freedom to help others.
Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK not only remembers those persecuted and murdered in the Second World War, but also those victims of more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
“It is a great honour to lay a wreath for such an important day, we are lucky to enjoy many freedoms which we can often take for granted in this country. As such we should celebrate anyone who stands up against tyranny.
“In Newark we have built very strong links with the Polish community. The statue of Irena Sendler in our town provides a focus to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many to protect the freedoms of others,” states Councillor Celia Brooks, Chair of Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Iga Gęślak, Vice Consul from the Polish Consulate adds:
“Gathering in front of this memorial to one of Poland’s great Heroines is very fitting as we can see the troubling times across the world at the moment. Irena Sendler saved many lives through her own bravery, risking her own safety and freedom to do so. She stands as a strong role model for us all.”
Newark Town Mayor, Councillor Pamela Ball, goes on to say, “We are very proud of the links between Newark and the Polish community, and it is very fitting that on this day we should remember those who gave and risked so much to save lives in the face of genocide. The story of Irena Sendler is a wonderful example for us all to follow.”
There will be a short ceremony taking place at the Irena Sendler statue in Fountain Gardens, London Road, Newark. The ceremony will start at 11:00 with representatives from the Polish Consulate, His Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Newark Town Council and Newark and Sherwood District Council.
His Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Liell Francklin DL, concludes, “Holocaust Memorial Day stands as an important reminder to us all that we should be mindful of the freedoms we all enjoy and that we should protect those freedoms at all costs.”
Newark has a long history with Polish culture and Polish service personnel during World War II with Former Prime Minister of Władysław Sikorski being buried at Newark Cemetery for a time. Many Polish airmen were also stationed in Newark during the Second World War and the town has a significant number of Polish war graves.
Newark is also twinned with the city of Sandomierz, one of Poland’s oldest and historically most significant cities.