Walking with the ‘Weeping Sisters’.

A reflective account of this event by John Duffy, Commission member from Huddersfield.

photo of giant puppets

We meet in the cold dark outside the Jug & Bottle, people shuffling round, nodding to old friends, nobody anxious to be seen to be too happy, because we are walking through town to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, following the sisters, five puppets towering over us, faces twisted in fixed expressions of grief and outrage, each one attended by careful guardians, who operate the huge hands on long poles, and give encouragement and instructions to the hidden puppeteers who bear the weight on their shoulders. Before we start, a group of women drums, two young women lament in song.
the beautiful voices
refusing comfort:
everyone stands, blinking.

We follow the drums, Stan asks me to help carry the Burundi drum, a heavy awkward instrument. We stop at the Market Cross, more singing, two fiddlers, a man with an instrument like a bodhran, grey and shivery, an insistent sound, like hailstones. The man from Burundi beats his drum with heavy sticks.
we pass between café drinkers
and a sleeping bag

huddled in a shop doorway
In the warmth of the University, the Kindertransport woman, gracious and witty, shows pictures of her family laughing, before she was barred from school, her brother deleted from the University, the eternal farewell to her parents.
a rebuke to the arrogant –
after eighty years
she is making us laugh

After her, other testimonies: the Roma boy in his England sweatshirt, the Syrian woman, the man from Burundi, the Kurdish woman, the Serbian woman. Scrolls are unrolled for each one, the schoolchildren give their messages of tolerance and hope.
Don’t make war!
the boy says,
Make chocolate!

The frail delicate Rabbi, in his beautiful strong voice sings Kaddish for all the dead, but first, in German, in a voice that hushes the hall, Brahms’ Lullaby. When he has finished he has created a silence with a magnetic force we can feel. It lasts for minutes.

A treasure chest

There may not be six million
buttons: but every one counts.
River: treasure: ordinary things.