Communities from across the city joined together to remember the six million Jewish people killed during the Holocaust as well as subsequent genocides.
Leaders spoke about the ‘power of words’ and how they can be used to spread good and rally against evil at the Holocaust Memorial Day Service at Portsmouth City Museum.
As well as honouring victims of the Holocaust, the memorial paid respects to those killed in genocides such as Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur and Bosnia.
Addressing those gathered to pay their respects, Lord Mayor Councillor Ken Ellcome, said: ‘Today we not only remember the Jewish people who suffered the atrocities during the Second World War but also the millions who have suffered in modern genocides.
‘It is appropriate that we are holding this service by the Anne Frank Memorial Tree as her diaries of what she suffered became world-famous through her words. We need to think about the impact of our words – a lot can happen as a result of propaganda.
‘It is important we use the power of words for good not bad especially in today’s modern society with the rise of social media to spread messages.’
Bishop Paul Miles-Knight spoke of the importance of accepting everyone within society. ‘We remember those who suffered in the past and those who are still suffering today and we thank the city community groups and those within it.
‘We should promote tolerance and acceptance rather than exclusion. The Jewish people were the victims of the greatest man-on-man crime where people were shot, starved, gassed and killed with lethal injection – all because they were deemed as being different.
‘We cannot change the past but we can change the future.’
The service also heard powerful readings, poems and stories including Stuart Olesker, of the South Hampshire Jewish Reformed Community, who told the moving story of a woman called Erika.
As a child captured by the Nazis, Erika was thrown from a moving train by her mother, who was en route to a concentration camp. Fortunately for Erika she was rescued by a stranger and given a second chance of life.
Council leader Donna Jones also told the heartbreaking story of a man called Sedin who lost everything and was subjected to a life of torture when 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered by Bosnian Serbs in 1995.
‘Sedin never knew when he would see his family again and had no idea his dad had been murdered until he was told. Sedin identified his father some time later when he was shown a body with the clothes his father was last seen wearing.’
Marie Costa, of the African Women’s Forum, added: ‘Spoken or written words are very powerful and have a great impact on us. Winston Churchill used words to strengthen our resolve against the Nazis while Adolf Hitler used them to mesmerise his followers. Saying “never again” is not enough. We must guard against using words that may prejudice others.’
Following the service Cllr Ellcome lit a candle at the base of the Anne Frank Memorial Tree before a minute’s silence was held.