Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

On 26th January 2017 Bishopbriggs Academy hosted the Scottish National Holocaust Memorial event on behalf Interfaith Scotland, Scottish Government, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and East Dunbartonshire Council.  This was the culmination of a week of commemorative events which included a service at Glasgow University, Bishopbriggs Academy working collaboratively with residents from HMP Low Moss and a number of school events across the Authority.

Saskia and Umutesi

(photograph courtesy of BBC)

The theme of this year’s Holocaust memorial events was ‘How can life go on?’  The two main speakers for the week were Saskia Tepe and Umutesi Stewart. Saskia is the daughter of Brigitte – a survivor of Nazi, Czech and Russian persecution.  Saskia shared some of her mother’s experiences in her struggle to ‘live on’ after much loss and suffering.  Saskia captures both her mother and her own trauma as ‘survivors’ in her book ‘Surviving Brigitte’s Secrets’.  Umutesi is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who now resides in Scotland. She shared her powerful story of survival and how she lives on after the horrors she has experienced and witnessed.

Saskia speaks to pupils

In the afternoon of 26th Janaury, S2 pupils from Bishopbriggs Academy and Turnbull High School joined together to listen to Saskia and Umutesi’s stories and had the opportunity to ask questions.  In addition, Bishopbriggs Academy choir sang and Turnbull High School pupils, Jennifer Drolle and Craig Pinheiro performed poems.  S6 pupils, Katie Robinson and Skye Stone gave their reflections on their recent trip to Auschwitz.

Around 300 invited guests attended the evening event.  Guests were given the opportunity to view artwork from local primary schools, HMP Low Moss and the pupils of Bishopbriggs Academy and pupils spoke to guests about their work with young men of HMP Low Moss, the significance of the artwork on display and the pupils’ trip to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz trip display

Sixth year pupils, Melissa Kerr and Scott were our Masters of Ceremonies for both the afternoon and evening’s events. The evening event began with a welcome from Provost Una Walker before Depute First Minister and Cabinet Minister for Education and Skills, Mr John Swinney spoke about the importance of keeping the memories of the past alive and influencing the future.  Bishopbriggs Academy Choir then performed the Hebrew psalm Al Shlosha D’Varim, by Allan Naplin.  Al shlosha D’Varim means "The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace”, reflecting this year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day, ‘How can life go on?’

Umutesi then spoke movingly about her story for survival before the Lenzie Academy S3 Drama Group performed a short play ‘Lessons for Life.’ Katie and Skye once again gave their reflections on Auschwitz before Saskia told of her mother’s experiences and the impact on her life.  This was followed by Boclair Academy Creative Arts Group who performed a contemporary dance to Benedictus by Karl Jenkins with a haunting cello solo performed by Nic Dow. This was accompanied by vocalists from the Boclair Academy senior choir and concluded with the poem ‘First They Came for the Jews’ by Martin Niemoller and a performance by the East Dunbartonshire Senior Strings Orchestra of Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel featuring soloist Holly Murphy.

The evening concluded with the lighting of candles in memory of all those who have suffered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides before Rabbi Rubin Rabbi Rubin sang the Yiddish tune, Eli Eli, which is based on a prayer in psalm and the prayer of Shema.

Candle lighters

(photograph courtesy of Interfaith Scotland)

A video with highlights of the Scottish Holocaust Memorial 2017 event is available from East Dunbartonshire Council. The video can be viewed here.