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Sir Herbert Leon Academy Hosts Immensely Moving 'Genocide Memorial Day'

posted Jul 18, 2018, 4:22 AM by Nicholas Basson   [ updated Jul 18, 2018, 4:23 AM ]

Despite being over 90 – Harry Olmer, a holocaust survivor of the Holocaust, was one of three outstanding guest speakers at Sir Herbert Leon Academy's Genocide Memorial Day. Despite being over 90, he stood and spoke for over an hour without notes at about his experiences as a boy, much the same age as his student audience, about how he and his family were taken from their homes and made to work for the Nazis in various concentration camps. Tragically many of Harry's family did not survive.

This immensely powerful annual event was shared not just by the school’s own students, but also invited schools across Buckinghamshire and Northants, the local MP and the Mayor of Milton Keynes. Sponsored by Remembering Srebrenica and the Holocaust Educational Trust, speakers included those who have had personal experience of genocide, and their stories explain the effect that it has had on them, their families, and their friends.

Lejla Damon was born on Christmas Day 1992 after her mother had been raped by Bosnian Serb soldiers during the war following the break-up of Yugoslavia. Lejla – only eight years older than some of the students – expressed her sincere hope that her own bitter experiences would never be repeated.

Jon Silverman, a respected former BBC journalist and academic, spoke about his experiences reporting extensively on the Bosnian genocide. He was a witness to the Bosnian and later conflicts, and explained that an apparently tolerant and mutually respectful community can quickly break down so that former friends and neighbours suddenly become enemies intent on murdering each other simply because of religious or tribal differences.

Leon sixth form students shared their experiences of visiting Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and Srebrenica, site of the Bosnian genocide. They explained what they witnessed deeply affected them and totally altered their attitudes and their view of life.

Milton Keynes South MP, Iain Stewart, unveiled the Academy's 'Silent Soldier Statue,' part of a national scheme run by the British Legion to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. Entirely paid for by fund raising activities by students and staff, it will be dedicated to the memory of a local serviceman who died in that great conflict.