Holocaust Memorial Day
'Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.’ - George Santayana
Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day which takes place each year on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. On Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, as well as the other groups of people who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis. These include: Roma and Sinti people (sometimes referred to as ‘gypsies’), disabled people, homosexual people, Jehovah Witnesses, political opponents of the Nazis and many others.
We also remember the millions of men, women and children, who have been murdered in the genocides which followed – in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. These subsequent genocides represent a failure of humanity, a failure to ‘remember’ the Holocaust and consequently history has repeated itself.
Each year a service to mark Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on Church Street in Warwick. This year Edward in the Lower Sixth was invited to read. The chosen reading was ‘Fear’ by Eva Picková:
Today the ghetto knows a different fear,
Close in its grip, Death wields an icy scythe.
An evil sickness spreads a terror in its wake,
The victims of its shadow weep and writhe.
Today a father's heartbeat tells his fright
And mothers bend their heads into their hands.
Now children choke and die with typhus here,
A bitter tax is taken from their bands.
My heart still beats inside my breast
While friends depart for other worlds
Perhaps it's better – who can say? –
Than watching this, to die today?
No, no, my God, we want to live!
Not watch our numbers melt away.
We want to have a better world,
We want to work – we must not die!
Eva was born in Nymburk, Czechoslovakia on 15 May 1929 and was sent to Terezin in 1942. Terezin was used as a transit camp for European Jews on route to Auschwitz and other death camps. Picková died in Auschwitz aged 14. Her poem ‘Fear’ was discovered in Terezin following the liberation of the camp in 1942.
When we learn about Genocide both current and historical it is important to remember that each of the 6 million killed in the Holocaust and the 400,000 dead in Darfur is more than just a statistic, they are a human beings who suffered like Eva Picková.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, we are reminded of what can happen when prejudice and persecution are left unchallenged, and of our responsibilities to stand against these actions when we see them in our own communities. It is an ideal opportunity to reaffirm our community’s commitment to treat all people, whatever their race, religion, gender or sexuality as we would like to be treated; to reaffirm our responsibility to be upstanders and challenge discrimination whenever and wherever it exists; to have a positive impact and honour the memory of Eva Picková and other victims of genocide by building a ‘better world’.