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Westminster Abbey Marks Auschwitz Anniversary

Monday, 2nd February 2015

Westminster Abbey Marks Auschwitz Anniversary

A Service of Solemn Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz was held at Westminster Abbey on Sunday 1st February 2015.

The Service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding:

We gather in this holy place of faith at the heart of our nation to commemorate the beginning of the end 70 years ago of the horror in Auschwitz-Birkenau. We shall give thanks for those who fought to destroy the vicious regime whose systematic programme was to exterminate the Jewish people, together with Roma and homosexuals and others, throughout continental Europe.
As we reflect this evening on the cruel suffering and terrible death they endured in the Holocaust, may we recognise with pride the courage of so many who withstood the terror and tended the sick and dying.
May we recognise with shame the latent cruelty that lurks beneath our human skin and the ease with which we mark as alien other groups and ethnicities of humanity. May we repent of treating as less than human people we should see as brothers and sisters under God.

Ruth Rosen read from the foreword to the Diary of Anne Frank; Rabbi Helen Freeman, Principal Rabbi, West London Synagogue, read Lamentations 2: 8-11; Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and Zigi Shipper, survivors, Auschwitz-Birkenau, read Testimonies; and the Reverend Professor Vernon White, Canon in Residence, read 1 Corinthians 13.

Sir Andrew Motion read his poem, Finis, written specially for the Service.

The Address was given by Rabbi The Baroness Neuberger DBE, Senior Rabbi, West London Synagogue.

A string quartet of Tanya Sweiry (violin), Ariel Lang (violin), Joe Bronstein (viola) and Auriol Evans (cello) played Allegro moderato from String Quartet no 3 Op 46 by Viktor Ullman, killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, as the memorial candles of the Shoah candelabra were lit by: Renee Salt, survivor, Auschwitz-Birkenau; Jacob Gryn, grandchild of Rabbi Hugo Gryn; His Excellency Dr Peter Ammon, Ambassador of Germany to the Court of St James; Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall; Alan Gosschalk, Fundraising Director, Scope UK; and Valdemar Kalinin, representative of the Roma community.

Stephen Douse, West London Synagogue Choir, sang Pogrzeb by Szymon Laks, conductor of the Auschwitz Prisoners' Orchestra, 1942 - 1944. The Belsize Square Synagogue Youth Choir and the Alyth Young Singers sang Tsen Brider (Jüdischer Todessang) by Martin Rosenberg, killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943.

Paul Heller, Canotor, Belsize Square Synagogue, chanted El Malei Rachamim, Rabbi Helen Freeman led Kaddish, and Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, Belsize Square Synagogue, led The Canticle.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon and Precentor of Westminster, and said by: the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, representing the Archbishop of Canterbury;  Jill Todd, Chairman, West London Synagogue; the Venerable Andrew Tremlett, Sub-Dean and Rector of St Margaret's; the Right Reverend Nicholas Hudson, representing the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster; Zippi Lyttleton, Vice Chair, West London Synagogue; the Very Reverend Monsignor Bernward Mezger, representing the Roman Catholic Military Bishop, German Bundeswehr; and Rabbi Stuart Altshuler.

The service was sung by the choirs of the West London and Belsize Square Synagogues, the Zemel Choir and the Alyth Youth Singers, conducted by Dr Benjamin Wolf and Christopher Bowers-Broadbent.

The organ was played before and after the service by Jeremy Woodside, Organ Scholar.

The Order of Service (PDF, 255KB)

The Shrine of St Edward the Confessor is one of the most powerful features of the Abbey. To stand in the presence of a man who is both a saint and a monarch is awe-inspiring.

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The Reverend Christopher Stoltz - Minor Canon

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