Ellesmere Primary School plant cherry tree in remembrance of the Holocaust
Ellesmere Primary School pupils welcomed Geoff Elner, local Shropshire Councillor for Ellesmere Urban, and members of the two inter faith forums in Shropshire to a special ceremony on Friday 26 January 2024. This centred on planting the 19th tree in the Shropshire cherry tree orchard of remembrance for the Holocaust, Nazi persecution, and genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia and Darfur.
In a special Year 6 assembly, the pupils shared how their values and aspirations linked with the theme chosen by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for 2024: ”Fragility of Freedom”. Geoff Elner talked with them, as did Mark Michaels from the South Shropshire Inter Faith Forum, and poetry was shared by Imam Sohayb Peerbhai from the Forum. A candle was then lit, before Peter Vousden from the Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum read a prayer.
John Blessington, Shropshire Council arboriculturist, talked about the importance of trees with the pupils, helping them with tips on how to care for the tree once it had been planted by them. Reverend John Vernon from the local parish then closed the ceremony with a final prayer.
The children who helped to plant the tree were Alfie, Alys, Amber, Charis, Iris, Jack, Oliver, Rosie, Thomas, Tilly, Will and Zachary.
Oliver also helped to light the candle with Lois Dale, Shropshire Council’s performance and research specialist.
Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children and education, said:-
“In planting this cherry tree at Ellesmere Primary School, we show our continued intent to help primary school pupils in the county to understand more about the Holocaust, in which six million Jews perished along with other victims including Roma and Sinti communities, as well as learning about other genocides.
“I was really pleased to hear how much the Year 6 pupils there have taken from their participation in this important event. Well done to everyone involved, and thank you as ever to the inter faith forums who came together with us on this.“
Geoff Elner said:-
“I found the service very thought-provoking and l believe that, together, we paid tribute and honoured the victims of the Holocaust and the subsequent episodes of genocide.
“The message regarding the fragility of peace was delivered, and the pupils understood that the horrors of the past cannot be allowed to ever be repeated; and that if we all work together, we can all build a safe future for everyone.
“The cherry tree we planted will be a living reminder, and l know it will be well looked after.”
Peter Vousden, of Shrewsbury Interfaith Forum, commented that the ceremony had been beautiful, and how important it was to keep remembering the Holocaust this way; whilst Mark Michaels said it had never been more important for faiths to come together.
Here in Shropshire we find a different primary school each year, in different parts of our large rural county, at which to plant a cherry tree to commemorate the Holocaust and other genocides. The aim is to help primary school children to learn about the Holocaust in a way that will be age-appropriate and memorable. The trees are Black Oliver flowering cherry trees, a variety native to the West Midlands, chosen in order to show welcome for different faiths and communities within our local area, including the refugee families that we support from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
The ceremony includes the lighting of a three-wick candle, indicating the interlinking of the three world faiths of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This is in a purple bowl, which is the colour used by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
Holocaust Memorial Day, on 27 January each year, marks the Holocaust and other atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis, including against people with disabilities, Sinti and Roma communities, people who were black or Slavic eg from Poland, and people who were gay. The day also commemorates other genocides that have taken place since World War 2. This year’s theme is “Fragility of Freedom”.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a time for bringing communities together in collective remembrance of the millions of people persecuted and killed for who they were, and in so doing, to learn the lessons of the past and stand up to hatred, bigotry and racism wherever we find it today.
For more information and resources, please see the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website at www.hmd.org.uk