CAPTION: Candles were lit by different faith groups to remember victims of the Holocaust

Exeter Cathedral Holocaust Memorial Day Event Calls Us to Bear Witness

Posted: 27th January, 2023

More than 600 people gathered in Exeter Cathedral to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 and hear TV presenter Robert Rinder speak about the importance of bearing witness to the stories of both survivors and victims.

The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year was Ordinary People.

Rinder, a barrister who is known for his show Judge Rinder, is a third generation Holocaust Survivor. He was accompanied by Plymouth psychiatrist Bernie Graham, another descendent of Holocaust survivors.

Robert Rinder with second generation Holocaust survivors Sharon Degen and Bernie Graham

The two met during the filming of the documentary My Family, The Holocaust and Me, in which both men explored the historical impact of the Holocaust on their families.

Robert Rinder said “Often with the Holocaust we focus on the end of the story, but it is important to ask how it began.”

He said that hearing and sharing the stories of the ordinary men, women and children who perished at the hands of the Nazis in World War Two was vital to ensure it didn’t happen again “We too become witnesses. Only those stories can counter the darkness of hate,” he said.

He also spoke about the ordinary people who stood by and allowed atrocities to happen and those who showed a “limitless capacity for courage.”

He told the audience: “We are here today, not to commemorate but to go into the world to stand against prejudice in all of its dark forms.

“You are truly lights in the world.”

Children from St Thomas Community Primary School sang the song “I’ll be Your Refuge”

The event was jointly organised by the Diocese of Exeter Education Department and there were a number of local school groups present, including Year 6 pupils from St Thomas Community Primary School, who sang the song “I’ll Be Your Refuge”.

During the ceremony candles were lit by representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Roma communities, as well as the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devon and a member of Devon County Council.

People gathered also heard about The Holocaust, Their Families, Me and Us education project, which 160 schools across England have participated in.

The Very Rev’d Jonathan Greener, Dean of Exeter Cathedral, spoke movingly about his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and education centre in Jerusalem.

He said “On this Holocaust Memorial Day, we are invited to reshape our lives to ensure that nothing of the kind can ever happen again.

“It is an opportunity to reflect on what sort of people we really are. What have we done, what can we do, to nurture conditions that, when the hardest decisions have to be faced, will enable us to choose good rather than evil?”

Following the candle lighting he prayed “May we in our ordinary ways show extraordinary love in the world today.”