The ceremonies were held in Shropshire during the week of Holocaust Memorial Day 2022, and involved children from Mereside Primary School, Sheriffhales Primary School, members of faith communities, and Shropshire councillors.
At the first ceremony, on Tuesday, January 25, Tony Parsons, Shropshire councillor for Bayston Hill, Column and Sutton, helped the children to measure the first Holocaust Memorial Day cherry tree planted in 2015, while colleague Rosemary Dartnall spoke about what the day meant to her. Their tree is now three metres high, with lots of buds.
At the second ceremony, held two days later on Holocaust Memorial Day, Kevin Turley, Shropshire Councillor for Shifnal North, helped to plant the 15th tree in what is now a cherry tree orchard of remembrance growing across Shropshire.
Like the first, it is a BlackOliver flowering cherry tree. A commemorative stone has also been placed with it.
At both remembrance ceremonies the children shared prayers and lit a special three-wick candle to signify the world faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. At both schools they thought about the children who escaped the Holocaust by coming to England on the Kindertransport trains, and how this linked in with the theme for the year, “One Day”.
Mereside children wrote letters from their imaginary selves back to the parents they were leaving behind, which Rosemary Darnall described as very moving and as showing a great understanding of the plight of children escaping the direct effects of the Holocaust.
The children representing the school were Eva Edwards, Izzy Jones, Daniel Hill and Bobby McKinnon. They also read out a special prayer they had composed between them.
Sheriffhales children made a cut-out Kindertransport train, with individual promises to never forget, and to look after their cherry tree. This was then planted by Faith Adams, Ellie Rawlings, Elie-mae Wall, and Lydia Williams.
For the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum, Mark Michaels talked about his aunts, who came over on the trains, and said: “The children’s imagining – putting themselves in the place of the Kindertransport children – was just amazing.
"Beautiful writing, and read with belief and expression. If I’d discovered them in a folder in my mother’s desk, I would have believed them to be from my ‘aunts’.
"Well done to the children and congratulations to their teachers who got them to the point where they could do that. Thank you.”
Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for communities, culture, leisure and tourism, and transport, said: “I am so pleased to hear from our officers about how these schools have all taken the messages of the Holocaust and other genocides to heart, and the efforts that they have made to show that they will never forget the lessons to be learned.
“I absolutely commend all the children for their efforts, and I look forward to hearing how the trees continue to grow in their care.
“My thanks also go to the Shrewsbury and South Shropshire Interfaith Forums for their steadfast support, and to Reverend Mike Shaw as the local vicar at Sheriffhales for helping to conclude what I am sure was a very moving ceremony on Holocaust Memorial Day itself.”