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Holocaust Memorial Day 2022

The Mayor, Cllr Chris Woodward, will lay a wreath at 11am on Thursday 27 January, Holocaust Memorial Day, at the War Memorial, Royal Tunbridge Wells, as a symbol of commemoration for all the victims of the Holocaust and the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 is One Day.

Members of the Jewish community in Tunbridge Wells lost family in the Holocaust and have relatives who came to Britain as refugees. Among them is Annette Sinclair, whose Czech mother Liesl, as a young woman, was on holiday at a continental spa resort before WWII. There she struck up a conversation with an elderly Christian woman, Mrs Ferguson. As Liesl wanted to practise her English they became penfriends. Mrs Ferguson later helped Liesl escape to safety in Britain by sponsoring her as her domestic servant at her home in Banbridge, Northern Ireland.

Liesl remembered 3 September 1939, in Mrs Ferguson’s house, when she heard Neville Chamberlain’s broadcast on the declaration of war with Germany. It was One Day when her life changed. She feared for her parents and brother in Czechoslovakia. By 1942, their messages stopped, and she never heard from them again. Annette, who now volunteers for a local organisation which works with refugees, said, ‘I understand the refugee experience and how they need support’.

Learn more about Holocaust Memorial Day

The Holocaust is the name given to the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazis and their collaborators. Each year on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, communities and faith groups across the UK gather to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and more recent genocides.

Take part in Holocaust Memorial Day

One Day – a special tribute by poet Sonia Lawrence

For the Jewish children who came to Tunbridge Wells as wartime refugees with the Kindertransport, arriving at The Beacon hostel in Happy Valley, Rusthall was One Day that changed their lives. The residents of The Beacon became their family, while many of their own families perished. Rusthall resident and poet Sonia Lawrence, a member of Kent and Sussex Poetry Society, has penned a special tribute One Day to the children and the community that welcomed them.

One Day

The valley echoes to your song
Your dreams and wistful thoughts of home
The friendships forged so long ago
flicker as the sun between the trees.

Great grandmothers now we stroll the paths
Remembering all our friends at school
Wrenched from their terror-stricken land
to find a refuge in Rusthall.

The village opened up its heart.
Rusthall mothers laid another place at tables.
We cuddled close in air raid shelters
trembling until we heard the All Clear sound.

It is a Happy Valley, and was then,
although our village boys were lost
in the same war that brought you here.
One day, we hoped, one day – maybe.

Uneasy peace at last returned
to the wilderness of Europe,
you left to go your separate ways
believing we would meet again some day.

Years elapsed before our promise was fulfilled,
friends reunited with their friends in celebration,
our shared experience brought to mind
we walked again through Happy Valley, where the air is kind.

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