January 27th marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. On this day every year people all over the UK come together to honour the survivors and remember those who lost their lives during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is the power of words.
Due to the participation of schools, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC’s event took place on Monday, January 29th at Rhydfelin Library. The event was primarily led by young people from St John Baptist CIW School, Hawthorn High and Treorchy Comp who shared their poetry, experiences of educational trips to Auschwitz and stories from people they’d met, including a Polish political prisoner.
The power of words was explored by discussing how the Holocaust didn’t start with death camps and gas chambers, it began by the dehumanization of an entire people using the strongest weapon of all – words. Through spreading and promoting messages of hatred – often through public channels of communication such as newspapers, radio, television, or perhaps more appropriate to today, social media – words can be used to normalise and naturalise stereotypes and contribute to stage one of genocide – classification.
whilst the notion of genocide may be inconceivable to many today, it’s important to remember that discrimination, racism and hatred, which is undoubtedly still prevalent today, could potentially contribute to and act as a catalyst towards genocide. In line with the theme, an address from the Police Constable highlighted that we all have a responsibility to challenge any discrimination or hatred we may see or hear. With so many young people communicating online and through social media, the power of words is a particularly relevant theme and events like Holocaust Memorial Day are essential to “learning lessons from the past to create a safer, better future.”
— Melanie Warburton (@Minniewarb) January 29, 2018