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January 2020


Holocaust Memorial Day - Quarter Peal

A special quarter peal was rung on half-muffled bells, and the conductor Andy Pollock explains the significance and reason for ringing:
During the second world war, my great grandmother Mirjam Rabbie-Polak was transported from Amsterdam to the Westerbork transit camp and on to Auschwitz where she was killed on 12th February 1943, probably on arrival as an elderly lady.
According to family accounts including a handwritten account of my father aged 13, beginning on Saturday 11th May 1940, as the German army advanced, the Dutch news media announced that all British subjects could leave for the UK. The family went to the British consulate to arrange evacuation to England. The following morning they boarded the Alkmaarder packet boat to IJmuiden but had to stop and wait for darkness at Velsen while German parachute troops were exterminated first. They then crossed the river and were taken in convoy by bus to IJmuiden while German planes were being shot at by anti-aircraft batteries, and machine guns, and the planes returned fire but fortunately the bombs that a plane dropped did not explode. At 3am, they boarded a British cargo freighter, and reached Harwich about 11 hours later. On Thursday 16th of May 1940 my father writes “we heard a radio broadcast that the Netherlands were occupied by the Germans, except the province of 'Zeeland' and that 'Amsterdam' had been occupied the same afternoon.”
In all the chaos and nerves, Mirjam - who had also got all her papers together ready to flee to England - decided at the last minute to stay in Amsterdam to be closer to her other sons Samuel and Levie. If she had travelled with my grandfather as intended, she would have escaped Auschwitz and probably survived the war. The only tangible items that survive Mirjam are a couple of photographs, and a pair of earrings that my sister has inherited, but we try and keep her memory alive where we can.
Chillingly, of all Mirjam’s brothers and sisters and their families that were alive at the start of the war, just 8 survived, while 29 were killed in Auschwitz, Sobibor, and Blechhammer, the youngest being just 2 years old.
This year the Holocaust Memorial Day trust was marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, to remember the millions of people who were slaughtered for their race or culture, religion, sexual identity, and political views. This includes my great grandmother and extended family that perished in the Holocaust.
So we rang a half muffled quarter peal on the bells at St James in Barrow, to mark the anniversary, and reach out to the community to remember and contemplate or pray for those who have suffered or been killed in genocides.
There are worrying accounts in the news of anti-Semitism, islamophobia, and hate crimes, and a tendency to mark out certain groups of people as being less worthy or to blame for our troubles. We must not forget the uncomfortable truths of these genocides, so that society can learn a lesson from history to be more tolerant, celebrate our diversity, empathise and respect each other so that we can all live in a world where such horrific events cannot recur.
Lancashire Association of Change Ringers
St James the Great, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
Monday, 27 January 2020 in 50 mins (12-0-24 in F)
1260 Grandsire Triples (Half Muffled)

Composition (3 part): In, 2xHunt, Out, Single Wrong, 2xWrong, Single Home, 2xHome - repeat twice more.

1Rachel Hallows
2Cameron Pollock
3Iwan Cotgreave
4Jayden Milby
5Jacqueline Preston
6Andrew Painter
7J Andrew Pollock (C)
8Owen B Osmotherley

First quarter peal in method - 3, 4.

Rung half-muffled as part of Holocaust Memorial Day to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

Rung to remember Mirjam Polak-Rabbie (Amsterdam, 11 March 1870 – Auschwitz, 12 February 1943) great grandmother of the conductor, and 2nd great grandmother of 2.

Also remembering the families of her brothers and sisters who almost all perished in the death camps of Auschwitz, Sobibor, and Blechhammer.

Rung for all those who suffered or died in genocides - Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Myanmar - so none are forgotten, and today we stand together resolute that this must never happen again.

Ringing World BellBoard

Photo of Mirjam Rabbie-Polak

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