A POIGNANT tree planting ceremony has been held to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

A silver birch tree was planted outside Halton Council’s Municipal Building in Widnes with an accompanying plaque which reads: ‘Amongst the silver birch trees of Auschwitz-Birkenau the innocent waited to die. Never again.’

Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered and the millions more killed in Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides.

Paula Barker, branch secretary of Halton Unison, who organised the ceremony, said: “Our commemoration involves the lighting of candles because the smallest flame can light the darkest room. With that light comes hope, hope that one day we will live in a tolerant and equal society.

“If you take one thing away from today please let it be the message that it is incumbent on us all to find that strength and determination to always challenge racism and fascism. Remember silence provides a space for hatred to grow.

“ We hope that this birch tree becomes a symbol of hope and defiance to those that seek to divide us.”

Halton mayor and mayoress Cllrs Alan and Joan Lowe, Glen Williams, Unison’s north west Regional President, Halton MP Derek Twigg , council leader Cllr Rob Polhilland representatives of Unison and the council attended the ceremony.