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The University of Southampton

City marks Holocaust Memorial Day 2024

Published: 26 January 2024
Five people standing
Councillor Dave Shields, Marie-Chantal Uwamahoro, Wendy Appleby, Caroline Nokes, Prof Neil Gregor

A commemorative event to mark this year’s national Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day was held in Southampton last night. It was organised by the University of Southampton’s Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. To mark this, survivor Marie-Chantal Uwamahoro, who now lives in England, shared her story at yesterday’s event.

Marie-Chantal reflected on growing up as a Tutsi, being called a ‘cockroach’ and a ‘snake’ throughout her childhood, and her father’s death after being attacked for being Tutsi. She was 16 when the genocide happened, in April 1994. Hutu militia took to the streets with weapons, following orders to ‘exterminate all the Tutsi’.

Marie-Chantal escaped death thanks to a kindly neighbour hiding her, but she lost 18 family members. She told last night’s event: “The genocide was the darkest era in Rwanda, as neighbours turned against one another. Today is about thinking about those who were stripped of their freedom to live, and those that died due to the Holocaust and genocide.

“I am proud to be called a survivor. Telling my story is what has kept me going. I have used it as a way of healing, and a way of erasing genocide, and preserving the memory of those I lost. We are all equal and we must learn from the past and make sure we are creating a brighter future together.”

Woman talking in lecture theatre
Marie-Chantal Uwamahoro speaking at the event

The memorial event, held at the University of Southampton’s Sir James Matthews Building in Guildhall Square, was attended by Southampton City Council representatives including former council leader Councillor Satvir Kaur, her successor Councillor Lorna Fielker, and Councillor Dave Shields, Sheriff of Southampton, as well as Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, and senior staff from the University of Southampton and Solent University.

Students from Solent University read extracts from the diaries and letters of Else Behrend-Rosenfeld, a German Christian who married a German Jew and joined the Jewish community in Munich in the 1930s as a gesture of solidarity, and her husband Siegfried Rosenfeld. Students from Eastleigh’s Barton Peveril Sixth Form College reflected on their recent participation in the Lessons from Auschwitz programme by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Professor Jane Falkingham , Vice President (Engagement and International) at the University of Southampton, said: “A university such as ours is committed to undertaking, and continuing to undertake, research on genocide. We are proud of the work the Parkes Institute has undertaken in this field in the 60 years since it was established. It underpins the university’s vision to be an inclusive civic university.”

Councillor Dave Shields, Sheriff of Southampton, said: “As well as reflecting on the past, we must reflect on where we are and where we are going. We cannot afford to ignore these lessons of history.”

Solent University’s Deputy Head of Student Success (Wellbeing), Daniel Inns, said: “At Solent, we are proud to champion the diverse communities that make Southampton a great place to live, study and work. Fostering an inclusive campus is our top priority and as a university closely connected to the local community, both our staff and students are committed to supporting important events like this one. We take our civic duty seriously, and it is inspiring to see our students integrate with local events that pay respect to the experiences of communities and enhance togetherness.”

National Holocaust Memorial Day is on Saturday 27 January 2024.

Full caption for top image: Councillor Dave Shields (Sheriff of Southampton), Marie-Chantal Uwamahoro, Wendy Appleby (Vice President (Operations) at the University of Southampton, Caroline Nokes (MP for Romsey and Southampton North), and Professor Neil Gregor (Professor of Modern European History at the University of Southampton)

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