David Fish, Secretary of the Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee for Peace and Reconciliation writes:
On 28 January, ten members of the Committee joined 200 other people in a temporary civic hall in Broadgate for Coventry’s Holocaust Memorial Day. We heard Coventry Lord Mayor, Afghan refugee Sroosh Kouhyar and Bosnian refugee Medina Softic all witness for peace.
But perhaps the most moving testimony came from holocaust survivor John Fieldsend.
Born in 1931 in Dresden, John’s family were integrated and “Life was very good”, until one day, everything changed: six friends turned on him during a session in a sandpit -“You are dirty Jews”- and it just continued. A policy to bully Jews – especially kicking. Shop signs “We don’t serve Jews”. Posters – “Jews are unwelcome guests”. John’s family fled to relatives in Czechoslovakia.
All John’s relatives were killed in concentration camps in monthly batches beginning in 1942. On their train to execution in Auschwitz, John’s parents wrote to their sons “Become good men, thanks and gratitude to those who helped you, and to remember the years with us that were happy”.
John remembers the discrimination even at an international conference in France during 1938 when the question was asked “What shall we do about the Jewish problem?”
John came to Britain “Your protected, wonderful land” on the kindertransport organised by Nicholas Winton. It was a very sudden escape.
The other speakers talked of Coventry’s message of peace throughout the world, the ‘end of the belief’ that “some people are worth less than others” and that “no voice is more valuable than any other”.
I think it’s so important to hear these stories and keep them alive. We need peace in our time, never to let this happen again. We must remember the 6 million Jews who we executed, the 3 million Soviet prisoners of war and millions of others who were executed. Do not allow this to happen again. Coventry will remain a welcoming city.
There was music from the Coventry City Council choir and the Performing Arts Service Brass Quintet.