Special Holocaust services in St Albans and Radlett hear how lessons of history must never be forgotten

Freddie telling his story

Freddie telling his story - Credit: Archant

Inspirational was just one word used to describe the story told by a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor when he came to St Albans last week.

(Left to right): Rabbi Daniel Sturgess, minister of St Albans United Synagogue, Holocaust survivor

(Left to right): Rabbi Daniel Sturgess, minister of St Albans United Synagogue, Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller, Mayor of St Albans Cllr Frances Leonard, and chairman of St Albans United Synagogue Lesley Marks - Credit: Archant

Freddie Knoller was invited to participate in the city’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day Communication at St Albans United Synagogue and the host, St Albans Mayor, Cllr Frances Leonard, called his talk ‘remarkable. shocking and deeply moving’.

Freddie related how he fled his home in Vienna as a Jewish teenager to escape Nazi oppression and managed to stay one step ahead until he joined the French Resistance and was exposed by a disappointed girlfriend.

Rather than betray his comrades, Freddie confessed to his Jewish origins and was deported to Auschwitz where he survived the hard labour and oppressive regime for 16 months.

With the Allies on the horizon, he was fvorced on a death march from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen where he was liberated by the British in April 1945.

The British Empire Medal-holder put his survival down to the resolutely optimistic attitude he adopted during even his worst travails and to never giving in.

He said: “I am proud to have experienced what I have experienced. I am proud to have fought for my life, and I am proud to be able to tell the world what happened.”

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Welcoming Freddie and other guests, St Albans United Synagogue chairman Lesley Marks said that he had survived with incredible resilience and fortitude what no ordinary person could.

She went on: “After a period of relative peace, the world has become a more turbulent place, and only recently there have been grave concerns about the dangerous Nazi rhetoric made by white supremacists in America and many anti-semitic incidents closer to home, with echoes of the past.

“Whilst reflecting on the past and never forgetting, we must strive to create a future of mutual understanding and respect.”

Her words were echoed by the Mayor who added: “We mustn’t forget that the genocide that took place was the culmination of many years of persecution followed by outright aggression, a lesson that we all need to keep at the front of our minds, especially in these uncertain times.”

In a moving ceremony introduced by the host synagogue’s minister, Rabbi Daniel Sturgess, guests lit six memorial candles, one for each of the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

Following a minute’s silence, the traditional Jewish memorial prayer for the dead was sung by Cantor Steven Leas with further musical contributions from the four members of the Shalom Youth Quartet.

* A candlelit parade and ceremony through Radlett marked Holocaust Memorial Day.

Led by the Mayor of Hertsmere, Cllr Pete Rutledge. the procession went from the station along Watling Street to the Radlett Centre where the ceremony took place in front of around 200 people including MP Oliver Dowden.

It included a two-minute silence and speeches from the Mayor and Hertsmere council leader, Cllr Morris Bright, along with a selection of videos, stories and musical performances.