January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day, a day where we remember the genocide of the Jews through Nazi Persecution. We also remember the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Dafur. The aim is to learn from the past and share the memory of the atrocities of the past, and to remind us of the work we must do today to challenge hatred and persecution.
When reading and trying to decide how to write about this day, I found that the reality described itself. The words of those with experience could tell it better than I could ever imagine.
“I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor.
“Auschwitz was really a factory for killing, and human beings were used as fuel. I survived and promised myself, I will tell the world what happened.” – Lily Ebert, Holocaust Survivor.
“At school I was under more and more pressure to heil Hitler. But I refused because in my heart I could never honour a man in this way as if he were a god who could save people. I was arrested at the age of 12.” – Simone Arnoldd, Jehovah’s Witness and survivor of Nazi Persecution.
“The Nazis hated anyone who did not fit their narrow idea of who or what was ‘normal’. Among those persecuted, excluded, imprisoned or murdered were the Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), Gay men and Lesbians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Trade Unionists, Freemasons, Black people, the mentally and physically disabled, political opponents and non-Jewish Poles and Slavs.”
“It’s hard to tell you the story because it brings back the feeling of helplessness .. people need to know in order to avoid genocide happening again.” – Var Hong Ashe, survivor of the Genocide in Cambodia.
“To spare you is no profit; to destroy you is no loss’ – one Khmer slogan.
“They killed my big brother, my young brother, my sister, and my father and my mother .. that is all my family. And around my family; my uncles, my cousins … lots, lots, I can’t tell you how many.” – Apolinaire Kageruka, survivor of the Rwandan Genocide.
“Tutsis were killed in thousands as they sought refuge in schools and churches. In their last moments alive, victims were often faced with the fact that their killers were former neighbours and friends.”
I leave you with the phrase: “To remember the work we must do today to stop hatred.” Even in 2013 we face a world where Sexism, Homophobia, Racism, and so many other forms of discrimination. I will remember the message of Elie Weisel, that silence helps the bullies, and that even name-calling can escalate before we have even noticed.
“This life is about what we can do… whether we’re doing something for our community or something bigger. We make the world the way it is.” – Kemal Pervanic, survivor of the Genocide in Bosnia.
Let’s remember all the victims. All over the world people light candles, plant trees, march, all to pay homage to those. Let’s all be grateful to the people and privileges in our lives.
For more information and resources, please visit www.hmd.org.uk
PO Box 61074, London, SE1P 5BX