London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony –

Monday 23 January 2017,

10.45am in The Chamber,

City Hall

Special thanks to everyone who organised and took part in this inspiring commemorative Event.                                                                                       

Holocaust Memorial Day background

In 2000, January 27 was chosen as the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 is ‘How Can Life Go On?’.

The Programme

11.00        Welcome and opening remarks – Chair of the London Assembly, Tony Arbour AM


Mala Tribich, Holocaust survivor

Shir Hama’alot Song of Ascent Psalm 121

Performed by Yoav Oved (tenor) and Eyal Pik (guitarist)


‘Finding a Family’ – read by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

How can life go on?

Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors, Kishen Sedani and Georgia Adkins, students from Chadwell Heath Foundation School.

Reading of the Statement of Commitment by students from:

Radnor House School

Tolworth Girls’ School and Sixth Form

Bishop Challoner Catholic Girls’ School

Rutlish School

Bishop Challoner Catholic Girls’ School

Tolworth Girls’ School and Sixth Form

Rutlish School


Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers


Sokphal Din, survivor of the Genocide in Cambodia

Memorial Prayer – El Malei Rachamim

performed by Yoav Oved

Lighting of memorial candle

Mala Tribich and Sokphal Din


Lekhol Ish Yesh Shem (Each of Us Has A Name) – Zelda Mishkovsky

Performed by Yoav Oved (tenor) and Eyal Pik (guitarist)



Mala Tribich

Mala was born Mala Helfgott in 1930 in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Mala’s family fled eastwards. When they returned, Mala’s family had to move into the ghetto which was established in her hometown, the first in Poland. Life in the ghetto was terrible with families living in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions.

The family decided that it would be safer for Mala and her cousin, Idzia Klein, to be taken to the city of Częstochowa to try to pass as Christian children and stay there until the deportations were over. A couple named Maciejewski came to their home to collect payment in advance and it was arranged that Mala would be collected first and Idzia a week later; it would have been too dangerous to take two Jewish children on the train at the same time.

Mala and Idzia were taken to a house on the edge of Częstochowa and pretended to be relatives from Warsaw. Life was at times uncertain for the girls and they often felt vulnerable. Sometimes it was safe to mix with visitors but at other times the girls had to hide in a wardrobe and stay there until they had left. Both Mala and Idzia missed their parents but it was still not safe for them to return. When Idzia told the Maciejewskis that she could go and stay with good friends of her parents, who were hiding their valuables, they took her there. Mala was eventually taken back to Piotrków where her father was waiting for her in the attic of a flour mill with Idzia’s father. On seeing Mala he turned white with shock and said, “Where is my daughter?” Idzia was never seen again.

Shortly after Mala’s return to the ghetto, there were further round ups during which her mother and eight-year-old sister were taken. All these people were murdered in the local forest. Soon afterwards Mala had to undertake the responsibility of caring for her five-year-old cousin Ann Helfgott, whose mother was deported to a concentration camp. When the ghetto was liquidated, Mala became a slave labourer until November 1944, when the remaining Jews were deported. Mala was separated from her father and brother and together with Ann was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

After about 10 weeks they were transported in cattle trucks to Bergen-Belsen where conditions were appalling and Mala contracted typhus. At the time of the liberation by the British army, Mala was very ill. She was transferred to a hospital/children’s home and it was many weeks before she recovered. Three months later she was sent, with a large group of children, to Sweden where she spent nearly two years. Not expecting any of her family to be alive, Mala was surprised to receive a letter from her brother Ben in England, the only other member of her close family to have survived.

In March 1947, Mala came to England to be reunited with Ben. She learnt English, attended secretarial college and within a year was working in an office. In 1949, she met Maurice, whom she married in 1950. Whilst her children were growing up, Mala studied and gained a degree in Sociology from the University of London. Today Mala has two children and three grandchildren. Mala’s testimony can also be found in the book, The Boys by Sir Martin Gilbert.

*Mala Tribich is the sister of Ben Helfgott MBE


Sokphal Din

Sokphal Din was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After the city fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, Sokphal and his family were among those driven into the killing fields. Sokphal works with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, telling his story as a survivor of the Cambodian genocide.


Ben Helfgott MBE

Born in Pabianice, Poland, in 1929. After three years in the Piotrkow-Trybunalski ghetto, he survived Bugaj and Hortensia labour camps and Buchenwald, Schlieben and Theresienstadt concentration camps. His mother and youngest sister were murdered in December 1942.

Ben came to England in August 1945 as one of ‘The Boys’ and in 1947 was reunited with his younger sister, Mala.

He became a successful businessman and champion weightlifter. In 1956 and 1960 he captained the British Olympic Weightlifting Teams – the only known concentration camp survivor to have participated in the Olympics. He was British Lightweight Champion for seven years and gold medallist at the 1950, 1953 and 1957 World Maccabiah Games.

In 1963 Ben helped launch the ‘45 Aid Society for Holocaust Survivors and has been chairman ever since. He is also president of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and of the Yad Vashem Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He was awarded an MBE for services to the community, and the Polish Knights Cross, Order of Merit, and Commanders Cross, Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his work of reconciliation between Poles and Jews. Ben is the brother of Mala Tribich.


Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers teaches at Leo Baeck College on a course called World Religions 10, which allows students to explore their own encounter with other faiths, and dialogue between faiths. She was ordained by Leo Baeck College in 2009 whilst also earning a distinction for her MA. Her first degree was in Religious Studies (1st class hons) at Lancaster University (2001), and she was a Buber Fellow at Paideia, the European Centre for Jewish Studies (2003).

Having volunteered in the Interfaith world for several years, and served as the Chair of the Young Leadership Council of the International Council of Christians and Jews, Debbie worked at the UK Council of Christians and Jews from 2003-2004. Her first Rabbinic post was at West London Synagogue where she co-ordinated Interfaith activities and the Jewish Preparation programme, as well as developing an interfaith programme for teenagers. She is currently working at the Movement for Reform Judaism as the Community Educator. She has been published in magazines and journals, and is a regular contributor to Radio 2’s Pause for Thought and for the Jewish News. Debbie is also a Council Member of the Faiths Forum for London.


Musicians – Yoav Oved (vocalist) and Eyal Pik (guitar)

Yoav Oved is an Israeli classical tenor who specialises in Jewish and Israeli music and works regularly with the Jewish Music Institute. Eyal Pik is a London based Israeli guitarist and singer/songwriter.

Holocaust Educational Trust

The HET was established in 1988 with the aim of educating young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The Trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training, an outreach programme for schools, teaching aids and resource material. One of the HET’s earliest achievements was ensuring that the Holocaust formed part of the National Curriculum for History. It continues to play a leading role in training teachers on how best to teach the Holocaust.

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust was set up in 2005 by the UK Government to promote and support HMD. Each year the Trust comes up with a theme to encourage people from all backgrounds to join in HMD. The HMDT creates free resources to support the more than 5,500 local HMD activities which take place in schools, local councils, faith and interfaith groups, prisons, cinemas and many other sections. It also runs free workshops and supports commemorations across the UK, and organises the annual national commemoration which this year will take place at Methodist Central Hall Westminster. You will be attending this event.

Statement of Commitment

Following the UN Holocaust taskforce meeting in Stockholm in 2000, the statement of commitment for HMD was created:

1. We recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning.

2. We believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation’s collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us, and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice.

3. We must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocide.

4. We value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil.

5. We recognise that humanity is still scarred by the belief that race, religion, disability or sexuality make some people’s lives worth less than others’. Genocide, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still continue. We have a shared responsibility to fight these evils.

6. We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocide. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt.

7. We will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual UK Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, tolerant, and democratic society.