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April 15, 2020 7:58 AM
By Cllr Ed Fordham, Brockwell Ward

roll call

This Wednesday April 15th 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945. I will be marking this event in honour of those who died in the holocaust and who survived to tell the full story.

For reasons unknown, my grandfather, Private Edward Alan Fordham 226493 spoke German. He was, as a truck driver, moved up to the front to help with the translation work required. What he saw in the camp at Bergen-Belsen was to remain with him for the rest of his life.

I am fortunate to enjoy the personal, political and religious freedom that was enshrined across Europe as a direct result of the two world wars. Each year I recall April 15th 1945 as the day that Britain looking into a concentration camp, saw the holocaust for what it was and the sheer scale of horror. The bodies piles up, the rotting corpses, the skeletal survivors - that was a sight unimaginable and a truth at the same time. Never forget.

In tribute to this the 75th anniversary (and with regard to the covid-19 restrictions on leaving the house) I shall construct a tribute in front of my house in Gladstone Road. This will be jam jars and candles in the form of a pink triangle - this badge was worn by those convicted of homosexuality. It was only later in the 1970's that the gay community reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation and equality.

Thanks to the Equalities flowing from that post war settlement many of the wrongs of those times have been redrawn. By example - I myself have married my same sex life partner. I give thanks to these soldiers of liberation for this inheritance.

E.A.F. medals

My grandfather never claimed his medals for World War Two, he didn't see the point and loathed what he had seen. In some curiosity and innocence, I did claim them in 1990 as he had died and the deadline was looming. I am now the honoured and proud guardian of his medals. I realise now that Bergen-Belsen and the Holocaust caused the repulsion my grandfather must have felt.

Accordingly, in 2009 I made the pilgrimage back to Bergen-Belsen to see for myself. I went alone. It remains to this day one of the toughest things I have ever done.

I made two short video accounts of my trip then:
· Bergen-Belsen: My Journey https://youtu.be/u3mj0maLqVE and also
· Bergen-Belsen: Their Journey https://youtu.be/kLBeIsVpobM

To see the scale and depth of horror and depravity, the capacity for forgiveness and the importance that we listen and learn. And to carry those very medals that he was entitled to but never claimed. I am a gay-man, married to my life partner - that very freedom flows from the social reforms that were driven through after in years of activism across Europe.

So, this Wednesday I will stop, light my 75 candles in 75 glass jars and they will form a pink triangle on the forecourt of my house on Gladstone Road, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

I will never forget.