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Oak tree planted in Beckenham Place Park in memory of Jewish Refugees

The enormous contributions of Jewish Refugees and Holocaust survivors were commemorated with a memorial tree planting ceremony in Lewisham this week.

The planting of the memorial tree was part of the Association of Jewish Refugees’ (AJR) 80th anniversary project ’80 Trees for 80 Years’ programme, which is planting 80 oak saplings across the UK in locations with significant meaning for Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors who escaped from Nazi Europe. The tree at Beckenham Place Park is among the first of the 80 trees to be planted.

The ceremony took place on Wednesday 1 December, during Chanukah and National Tree Week. Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, was joined by AJR representatives and local councillors as well as congregation members from Catford and Bromley Synagogue Also among the attendees was Janet Weston who sponsored the tree in memory of her late father, Hans Hermann Meyer, who fled Nazi Germany in 1937 and eventually settled in the UK.

Damien Egan, Mayor Lewisham, said:
“Thank you to the Association of Jewish Refugees for selecting Lewisham as one of the sites to host a tree to mark their 80th anniversary. This beautiful oak tree has been given a prominent position in Beckenham Place Park which is now seeing over 500,000 visitors a year.

“As the tree grows I hope it serves as a reminder to our future generation about the Holocaust as well as being a fitting tribute to the work the Association of Jewish Refugees has done in Lewisham and our surrounding boroughs.”

Michael Newman OBE, chief executive officer for the Association of Jewish Refugees, said:
“As well as helping to mark the heritage of our members and a place of historic interest associated with them, the planting of this tree enables the AJR to give back to and create a living legacy within the country that became home to the Jewish refugees who managed to escape Nazi Europe.

“Britain’s native oak trees are in decline and new trees are desperately needed. We hope these 80 special trees will be appreciated by future generations and provide natural habitats for other native species for many decades to come.”

Janet Weston, tree sponsor, said:
“Trees are often less transient than buildings and oak trees in particular can live for hundreds of years. When Dad visited his childhood home in Lübeck after the war, he found the house had been destroyed by an incendiary bomb but the apple tree was still there in the back garden.

“Dad loved this area and would have approved of Beckenham Place Park as he was very fond of trees and planted many in his own garden. He was a very good swimmer as well so would doubtlessly have approved of the lake too. It is such a fitting tribute to be planting an oak tree here in his memory. Hans died in January just three months short of his 100th birthday and the tree is also a wonderful way of celebrating his centenary year!”

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