On 27rh January each year, Norfolk Council of Christians and Jews organises the Holocaust Memorial Service on behalf of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of Norwich. This is usually held in St Peter Mancroft Church which is the parish church of City Hall but this year the church was due to undergo building works so was unavailable for the Service. Instead, it was held in Norwich Cathedral by kind invitation of the Dean and Chapter. The Dean and members of the Cathedral staff were immensely kind, considerate and efficient. Of course, they are very used to holding civic events and Canon Dr. Peter Doll – who had conducted the service with Alex in the past – composed a moving Service which was greatly appreciated by the very large congregation.
For many years, the Holocaust Memorial Service has been conducted by Alex Bennett and as this year will be his last, it was fitting that he was accompanied by the Dean and Peter Doll, two of the most distinguished clerics and theologians in the country
Canon Peter Doll and Jane Hedges Dean of Norwich Cathedral with Alex Bennett former Minister Norwich Hebrew Congregation
Every year, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust sets a theme to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and the 2017 theme was, “How Can Life Go On?” That life can go on was demonstrated by the presence in the congregation of Joe Stirling, a member of the Community and a friend to so many. Joe left Germany on the kinder transport, settled in Norfolk and made a great success of his family and professional life, eventually becoming Sheriff of Norwich. It was a coincidence, therefore, that the opening address at this year’s Holocaust Memorial Service was given by the present Sheriff, Cllr. Richard Marks, as the Lord Mayor had to attend the Queen who visited the Sainsbury Centre on the same day.
Again showing how life can go on was Rachel Gee who lit candles in memory of victims of the Holocaust and other genocides and read Psalm 27. Rachel’s grandmother also came to England on the kinder transport and was proud and heartened that her granddaughter agreed to take part in the Service. At sixteen, I think R
achel the youngest reader we have ever had and it was gratifying as it is so important that this commemoration continues through the generations.
Other readers represented the CCJ, the Liberal Jewish Community, the Roma community and other marginalised and minority groups who were victims of Nazi genocide. The Rev. Robert Avery, Vicar of St Peter Mancroft, read, “First they came…” by Pastor Martin Neimoller and Clive Roffe read a tribute to the uniformed services.
It was fitting that Frank Pond’s haunting ‘cello piece, “Kinder transport” was played by his daughter Elizabeth.
The CCJ is grateful to all those who took part in the Service and to the many congregants who joined us at the Cathedral that day. Most of all, we are profoundly thankful for Alex who has led this remembrance service for so many years with such thoughtful humanity. His gravitas and dignity will be sorely missed by the many people who have been privileged to hear him over the years.
Chair, Norfolk CCJ