East End remembers the Holocaust as Tower Hamlets Council pays its respects

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs is moved by survivors’ testimonies when visiting Holocaust touring exhibition at Poplar’s Idea Store. Pic: LBTH

An exhibition of ‘untold stories’ loaned by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has been touring Tower Hamlets libraries throughout January.

It tells the story of five survivors from the Holocaust and the later genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia, with a book display to encourage further learning.

Mayor John Biggs said he was was ‘moved by the touching testimonies on display’ when visiting the exhibition at Poplar’s Chrisp Street Idea Store.

Schoolchildren also gathered at Rich Mix arts centre in Bethnal Green for a screening of The Rescuers; a film telling the story of the diplomats who rescued tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazi death camps.

On Friday, Tower Hamlets councillors and staff gathered at the Town Hall to observe a two minute silence in memory. Councillor Peter Golds recited the Hebrew ‘Yiskah’ prayer for the dead.

Tower Hamlets Councillor Peter Golds recites the Hebrew ‘Yiskah’ prayer for the dead at town hall’s Holocaust Memorial Service. Pic: LBTH

On Sunday, members of the public walked from Aldgate to Stepney’s East London Central Synagogue, tracing the East End’s Jewish heritage along the route. The walk was followed by a multi-faith service of remembrance where Deputy Mayor Sirajul Islam joined community and faith leaders.

The events came a few days after Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs wrote to Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner north London, to express concern over her decision to withdraw special burial arrangements for Jewish and Muslim people, for which she has been heavily criticised.

Her decision is seen as controversial as both religions call for bodies to be buried as quickly as possible after death, often the same day and that an invasive autopsy should be avoided. In the letter Biggs characterised the decision as ‘insensitive and discriminatory’ saying it ‘ignored the needs’ of both religious communities.

Jewish leaders have reportedly called for Hassell to be ‘sacked’, after losing the confidence of the Jewish community.

Tower Hamlets has a population of 272,890, of which 34 per cent are Muslim, the highest proportion of  in England. Although the area once had a very substantial Jewish community, it has declined in recent decades to only around 0.6 per cent of the population.


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