CIVIC leaders, war veterans and other citizens gathered at Basingstoke’s War Memorial to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

The victims of Nazi persecution, as well as more recent acts of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, were all remembered at Monday morning’s event.

A bugler signalled the start and end of a two-minute silence, before Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane Councillor Dan Putty joined council chief executive Tony Curtis in laying a wreath on behalf of the borough.

Holocaust Memorial Day has been commemorated worldwide since 2000, and marks the anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in 1945. This year’s theme was journeys.

Ailsa Davies, who conducts humanist ceremonies, addressed the gathering and said: “We take this opportunity to collectively honour the innocent victims of the Nazi regime, those who were executed within the camp, and those who were persecuted.”

She read an extract from Soheila Ghodstinat’s poem, Silent Friend. Soheila was born in Tehran, Iran and changed schools nine times before achieving her high-school diploma. She lived in 30 different places and six different countries.

Her poem said: “My backpack is staring at me, with its wide dark eyes, and deep blameless look wondering where to? Where is the next destination? When is the final destination? When will this never-ending path end? When will this non-stop train stop?”

Ms Davies said: “We all take journeys throughout our lives; mostly without thinking about it much. We also talk about adapting to a major change in our lives as being a journey. We moan about being stuck on the motorway or when a train is delayed.

“But these journeys make no comparison to those thousands of people who are forced to make a journey. For those taken to concentration camps, there may have been a fear of knowing where they were going or a fear of not knowing where they were going and what would happen at the end of their journey.”

Cllr Putty said: “We honour the survivors, and remember the lessons of their experiences.”