Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Holocaust - our warning from history

27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day when the world stops and pauses and remembers Holocaust, typified in Auschwitz, the most notorious death camp, which was liberated 70 years ago today.

We do not remember the Holocaust because we wish to honour those who have died – although we do wish to honour them.

We do not remember the Holocaust because we wish to honour those who are the few remaining survivors – although we do wish to honour them, and to hear their story.

We remember the Holocaust because we wish to remember the perpetrators, and be warned by their example.

The Holocaust arose because the Nazis decided that the Jews (and others, the disabled, homosexuals, Roma, and other groups) were to blame for the ills of society.  They needed to be eliminated that a “better” society might exist.  Centuries of prejudice and discrimination began to be legislated as restrictions were placed on Jews in the Thirties.  In 1930, compulsory euthanasia of those with certain disabilities commenced in Germany – before the Nazis came to power.  When the Nazis came to power in 1933, concentration camps were built, to house “undesirables”.  As World War Two got underway, the number of camps increased to 15,000 throughout German occupied Europe.  Extermination camps were soon built to process murder on an industrial scale.  While the extermination camps were not common knowledge, it is certain that the populations knew of concentration camps, and the slave conditions and murders that took place there.  6 million Jews, and 5 million others died.  11 million.  11,000,000.

Never again!  That is the cry we must have as we remember the Holocaust.  It is hard to understand how it could have happened.  But it did.  Ian Kershaw, a British historian, noted that “the road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved by indifference”.  The Nazi’s Final Solution was devised by those with a hateful and malevolent belief system.  But it succeeded because anti-Semitism of a low-grade was endemic in society.  The Nazis attacked those who were most despised.

This, for me, is at the heart of Holocaust Memorial Day.  Laurence Rees wrote a series for BBC TV called “The Nazis – a warning from history”.  This title is apt. 

Today, we believe we have moved on.  A Holocaust could never happen again.  But, here in the UK, anti-Semitism flourishes, and we see immigrants, and benefits claimants stigmatized daily in the press, portrayed as thieving amoral money-grabbers in poverty porn documentaries on TV.  They are pilloried and despised by all.  The message of UKIP, outrageous to the intellectual liberal elite, but so popular among the general population, resonates with the deep-seated prejudices that many have.  Nigel Farage is making it permissible and respectable to hate the “other” and to seek to legislate against them. 
I doubt UKIP has a malevolent philosophy, but it paves the way for those who do.  And UKIP has bedfellows in the European Parliament who are much more right-wing, and openly espouse racist policies, and even include Holocaust deniers.

For me, the Holocaust is a warning.  I say NEVER AGAIN.  And I watch, and I fear.  Whenever anyone speaks against a group, remember the Holocaust.[1] 

For the memory of 11,000,000 dead, of many others whose lives were blighted and ruined, remember the Holocaust.  Never again!

[1] I offer this opinion knowing it deals with deep matters, and knowing some may  be angry, offended, or upset.  I do not wish in any way to minimise the suffering of Holocaust victims and survivors.  I feel strongly enough about this to take that risk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Discrimination was a fundamental cause that led to the holocaust. It still exists in each and every country. In each and every religion. In each and every class system. We might miss the industrialised death machine. But we still persecute others. Whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist.