As the nation joined to commemorate the liberation of prisoners from Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and more recent genocides, the people of Bradford remembered its tragic legacy in their own way.
The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, sat in City Hall with representatives from the many groups affected by that catastrophic moment in history to put it in poignant perspective.
Victims of the Congolese genocide sat with survivors and relatives of those persecuted 69 years ago in Nazi Germany, which saw six million Jewish, gypsy and disabled people killed.
Leader of Bradford Council Councillor David Green summed up the day’s theme of ‘journeys’ and Bradford’s role in preventing the repetition of the mistakes of the past.
He said: “It is not just a physical journey but a mental one assimilating into a totally different culture. But it is the journey that we as a community have to make. We have to welcome those who are coming here fleeing oppression, not just as a city, but as a civilised world.
“We are fighting the belief in racism and homophobia, of religious intolerance on our doorstep. We must make sure that we as a city and we as individuals are at the forefront of that argument and debate.
“It does not mean that we have to agree with everybody, but what keeps us apart from Nazi Germany, Rwanda and Cambodia is that we can have these debates.”
The event saw representatives from the disability forum, holocaust survivors, Bradford’s Jewish community and those afflicted by persecution in their homes today speak out. Ben Mussanzi and his wife Kongosi, who fled the Congolese genocide in 2002 to live in Bradford, spoke of the exemplary role the city plays.
Mr Mussanzi said: “Bradford is a diverse and multi-cultural city where for centuries people have fled to. Bradford is the best place for the Holocaust memorial to take place each year – to give an example to other cities.”
Emmerson Walgrove, representative of disability forum, added: “We need to remember that disabled people were persecuted as well as other people. We also need to move on.”
A choir from Barkerend Primary School sang a number of songs while students from Belle Vue Boys School told true-life stories of European Muslims helping Jewish people escape the Nazis.
One student encapsulated the efforts of a few individuals. He said: “They were immense and heroic. They gave safety and shelter at the expense of their own lives.”