IF PEOPLE were to observe a minute’s silence for everyone who died in the Holocaust it would last for 11 years and five months.
That was the poignant message from Cheshire’s new poet laureate W Terry Fox during Ellesmere Port’s Holocaust Memorial Day event on Monday.
The 11-and-a-half years would commemorate the six million Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and political dissidents who perished at the hands of the brutal Nazi regime in Germany from 1933-45.
Mr Fox read out his poem, Ishmael, Jacob, Rachael and Anna as a tribute to all those who died.
Guests at the Civic Hall event earlier heard Guido Alis of the Liverpool Association of Jewish Refugees tell the story of how he escaped the Holocaust while members of his family perished in the Polish Ghetto and in concentration camps.
He described the Holocaust as “the greatest crime of man against man”.
Mr Fox, who worked for many years in the legal profession in Ellesmere Port, said a “murdered generation” had been gassed, tortured and turned to ashes just because they were perceived to be different.
But the horrors of genocide continued to this day with atrocities in Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur and, more recently, Kenya.
He also spoke of how in 2003 15-year-old Traveller Johnny Delaney was killed in Ellesmere Port, also simply because he was seen as being different.
Two youths were found guilty of his manslaughter.
The theme of Johnny’s death continued when three young girls from Whitby High School, Victoria Stanners, Hannah Mather-Coe and Hayley Davies, read out a moving letter written by Johnny’s younger sister, Nellie Delaney, describing how he had been a victim of modern-day hatred and prejudice.
The event was hosted jointly by the county and borough councils to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Proceedings were opened with a performance by pianist Jessica Schofield, a pupil at Ellesmere Port Specialist School of Performing Arts.
An exhibition of artwork and poetry from local schools was on display.
The event featured music by Felix Ngindu, a Congolese musician who lives in Ellesmere Port.
In keeping with the 2008 theme of “Imagine, Remember, Reflect”, an area was set aside where people could spend time and write thoughts, messages and prayers to be hung on a tree featuring white doves.
There was also be a book of remembrance available for people to sign.
Outside in Civic Square borough mayor Cllr Ted Lloyd, county council chairman Cllr Neville Price and the mayor’s chaplain, the Rev Gordon McGuinness, unveiled a Holocaust Day plaque.
County Cllr Price said: “Sadly, the evils that created the Holocaust have not entirely passed away with history.
“It is so vitally important for young people to understand what happened in the Holocaust, so that they can prevent the same terrible things ever happening again.”