On Monday 28th January, Chichester MP, Gillian Keegan, hosted a performance of the opera, Push, in Westminster that was attended by leaders in the Jewish community along with members from both Houses of Parliament. The production was organised by the Chichester marks Holocaust Memorial Day Committee, led by Councillors Clare Apel and Mayor of Chichester, Martyn Bell.
The Opera, performed in Speaker’s House, told the true story of Simon Gronowski who, along with his sister and mother, was due to be deported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1943. During their transportation, Simon’s mother pushed her eleven-year-old son off the train in an effort to spare him the horrors of the camp. Simon, who never saw his family again, attended the performance in person. The production involved community choirs from Chichester and soloists from the University. The idea to bring this remarkable story to Westminster was conceived after Gillian attended the debut performance of Push last year at Chichester Cathedral.
In the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day, there have been thousands of commemorative events arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, to remember the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. In Westminster this week the Chichester MP also put her name to the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, pledging her support to honour those who were murdered during this dark period of history and pay tribute to the extraordinary survivors, like Simon, who work tirelessly to educate young people today.
To further raise the profile of the Push performance and Holocaust Memorial Day, Gillian highlighted the rise of antisemitism in today’s society in Prime Ministers Questions and also contributed to a Parliamentary debate where she called for more to be done to combat all discrimination.
After the performance, Gillian said: “This is the second time I have watched the Push opera and it was just as moving. Having it performed in Parliament was a wonderful way to remember those who died but also those who survived one of the darkest times in human history, so it was such a huge privilege to have Simon attend. I hope the performance has put a spotlight on the dangers of discrimination, especially with antisemitism becoming more prevalent across Europe and here at home. It was also humbling to have Chichester’s talented contribution to mark Holocaust Memorial Day recognised in Westminster.”
Martyn Bell, Mayor of Chichester, added: “Having local groups from Chichester perform this moving opera of Simon’s story in Speaker’s House was a fitting way of highlighting how Chichester has chosen to remember the six million victims of the Holocaust. His story not only draws attention to the worst aspects of human character but also some of the greatest. Now more than ever we must emulate Simon’s message of forgiveness and respect.”
(David Prior of Navy Studios)