This week Eton took part in an annual act of remembrance, honouring the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Holocaust Memorial Day happens every year on the 27th of January, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Together we bear witness for those who endured genocide, and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition. As well as those who suffered under the Nazi regime in Europe, we reflect on conflicts in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

‘Be the light in the darkness’ is the theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. It is described by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust as a fundamental need for 2021, a year which has already seen hatred and persecution thrive, because it encourages participants to ‘reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide’. Commemorations across the world have therefore explored ‘different ways of ‘being the light’, for example, resistance, acts of solidarity, rescue and illuminating mistruths.’

Along with teachers, two Year 13 boys helped to organise this year’s commemorations at Eton. Toby Lawson and Cal Gorvy worked to set up a conversation with StandWithUs, an educational charity dedicated to educating against Antisemitism, as well access to a conversation with Holocaust survivor Eve Kluger.

On Wednesday evening they hosted a virtual symposium, with pupils and teachers taking part by reading extracts from Rabbi Yosef Wallis, Eva Pickova, Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi and ‘Papusza’ Bronislawa Wajs, translated from Romani Polish by Yala Korwin. We heard talks on Captain Frank Foley, ‘healing and hope’ in Rwanda and the role of survivors, given by guests from Yavneh College. The symposium finished with a moving performance of ‘Prayer’ from ‘A Jewish Life’ by Ernest Bloch, performed by Mr Leandro Silvera on the cello (Head of Strings) and Mr David Goode on the piano (Head of Organ).

Times like this help define and develop us. It is often difficult to share and reflect on society’s scars, united as one community, but when we do we can nurture a more compassionate and accepting future for us all.

Toby Lawson, Year 13

You can find out more about the work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust here –