How we Remember the Holocaust

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day 2019, a national day recognising the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides. This is a day of reflection and remembrance as we honour the victims of these atrocities and look forward to a more positive future. But for people who have little knowledge of these events, or want to commemorate the day in a significant way, how can we do this?

 

Find a single person to remember

Comprehending that 6 million Jews, 275,000 disabled people, 200,000 Romani people and 5-15,000 LGBT+ people were killed in the Holocaust is difficult for most of us today. Trying to find a connection to these victims or to adequately memorialise them seems impossible. A way that I have found to mark the day and forge a more personal connection to it is to remember a particular victim each year. Finding a victim who died around the same age that you currently are allows you to more deeply understand their peril. Do some research into their origins and the circumstance of their death and you will have marked the day in a very special way. This means that the victims will no longer be arbitrary numbers and it means that we can give their lives and deaths some real meaning. With the number of Holocaust survivors rapidly dwindling, there will soon be no-one left to tell their first-hand story of the events and we have a duty to continue their legacy by remembering people for their individual worth. 

The Yad Vashem Database of Victims is a good place to start: https://yvng.yadvashem.org/advanced-search.html?language=en

 

Appreciate some of the art forms of the Holocaust

A way that I find it easiest to relate to the atrocities of the Holocaust is through art. When I visited Auschwitz, I bought a book of Holocaust poetry which helped me connect to the emotional states of the victims and attempt to understand their plight. Reading a text penned in a ghetto or concentration camp is amazing  as you can get a real insight into their mentalities. It is also amazing to me how people found the strength to create such beautiful art at such a low point in their lives. The chillingly succinct poem 'I Believe' which was found inscribed on a wall in Cologne where Jews had been hiding is an example of this:

 

I believe in the sun

though it is late

in rising

 

I believe in love

though it is absent

 

I believe in God

though he is

silent...

 

The subsequent art that the Holocaust has inspired is also incredible and even watching one of the many poignant Holocaust films can help forge a connection to the events. A film like 'Schindler's List' applauds the heroism of a righteous gentile and also can help us to visualise the events more clearly. 

 

Appreciate and commemorate other subsequent genocides

The Holocaust is a potent example of the evil of humanity and the acts we are willing to perpetrate against one another. After this horrific event, the world declared that 'Never Again' would we let this happen. But we failed. Since the Holocaust, there have been many genocides which we have yet to acknowledge to the extent of the Holocaust and which many people remain ignorant about. Something really positive that we can all do this year is educate ourselves about these other tragedies. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda and the 40th aniversary of the genocide in Cambodia. Take some time to learn about these atrocities as well as countless others, such as the genocides in Armenia, Bosnia, Darfur and others so that, one day, 'Never Again' can be a reality.

 

Listen to the testimony of a Holocaust survivor

This year, we are privileged to be able to host John Dobai, a Holocaust survivor, in the SU on 12th February. With most of the survivors now being quite elderly, we only have a limited time to be able to hear their stories and honour them. Take this wonderful opportunity to be able to hear his history and incredible story of survival. Hearing a first-hand account of the Holocaust is incomporable and there is no better way to commemorate than to hear from a real victim. 

There are clearly plenty of things we can all do to commemorate the horrific acts of history and honour the memory of the victims who tragically lost their lives. Please come along to the Anson Rooms in the SU on 12th February to hear John's story and make an effort to remember the past so that we can move forward into a brighter future.