Leslie Kleinman, a survivor of Auschwitz and two death marches to Oranienburg and Dachau who was liberated by American soldiers in 1944, gave a moving talk to the crowd before hosting a question and answer session.
The event was organised by Basildon Council to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and also featured an introduction by Jack De Metz from the Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation. There were live performances from the Basildon, Rayleigh and Brentwood Big Sing Choir alongside pupils from St Anne Line School.
Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated internationally to mark the date of the liberation of Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The theme for 2019, Torn From Home, encourages people to reflect on the trauma faced by anyone experiencing persecution and genocide.
Mayor of Basildon, Cllr David Dadds JP, officially opened a Book of Remembrance during this afternoon's service. He said: "Holocaust Memorial Day is a chance for us to remember the millions of people murdered under Nazi persecution and to think about the survivors whose lives were changed beyond recognition as a result. It's important that we take this opportunity to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future for all free from hatred, discrimination and exclusion.
"I commend Leslie for finding the strength to talk about his horrific experiences and the pain of being driven away from his home. I would like to thank everyone who took time out of their day to join us in sending out a clear message in support of diversity, equality and inclusivity."
The Book of Remembrance will be available in Basildon Library between 11am and 5pm tomorrow (Friday 25 January) for members of the public to sign.