More than 1,400 pupils in Kingston will attend events marking Holocaust Memorial Day in the borough.

The events take the form of educational workshops and are being organized by Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS) and Kingston and Surbiton District Synagogue. 

They mark the 14th year of an annual remembrance project run by the borough synagogues. 

This year's workshops are imbued with particular resonance — not least today (January 23, 2020), which marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.

Holocaust Memorial Day itself falls next week (January 27).

It marks an international day of remembrance to commemorate the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

2020's national theme is “Stand Together” and explores how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups.

It also examines methods of resistance to xenophobia and racism, and how they can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours and speaking out against oppression.

KLS said that each event is hosting around 100 13-15-year-old students from the borough.

The workshops feature a Holocaust Survivor, or adult descendant, giving a talk which is followed by a Q&A session and a film about people in Nazi occupied countries, who risked their own lives to help/hide Jews during the Holocaust.

Craig Wicking, Deputy Head Teacher at Southborough High School, Kingston — the first to attend the workshops on Monday morning — said:

“Our students are tolerant to one another on an individual basis but it’s vital that our students understand what can happen in wider society when there is intolerance towards particular groups of people, particularly if they do not know these groups.

"It’s also really valuable for both our young people and the Jewish community to meet and share their stories."

KLS said the vast majority of pupils attending are non-Jewish and the workshops amount to their first experiences inside a synagogue.

Max, a year 9 student from Southborough High described his experience at one of the workshops:

"I knew a little about the Holocaust before I came here this morning but listening to the speaker was really eye-opening and I learnt loads more”.