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Blog: Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is the national day of commemoration for those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It occurs annually on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets in 1945.

 

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”

?Elie Wiesel

(Romanian-American Holocaust Survivor, Writer, Politician and Nobel Laureate, 1928-2016)

 

What was the Holocaust?

The Holocaust (or Shoah – ???? –in Hebrew) was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of Jews. It occurred in Nazi Germany, Nazi-occupied territories across Europe and in territories held by the Axis Powers, allied with Germany.

Genocide continued until 1945, by which time the Nazis and their allies had murdered six million Jews: almost two out of every three European Jews, of which 1.5 million were children. On 27th January 1945, Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz. British forces liberated some concentration camps in Germany such as Bergen-Belsen.

Whilst the term ‘Holocaust’ refers specifically to the murder of Europe’s Jews, the Nazis and their collaborators persecuted and murdered many other different groups of people. More than 20,000 black or mixed-race people lived in interwar Germany. Nazis believed that the Slavic peoples of Poland and the Soviet Union were racially inferior.

The Nazis believed homosexuality was a threat to the survival of the ‘master race’. Consequently, approximately 50,000 gay men in Germany were sent to prison or concentration camps. Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted due to their unwillingness to accept the authority of the state, their opposition to war and their international connections.

The Nazis perceived Germans and Austrians with mental or physical disabilities as a threat to the nation’s racial ‘purity’. Any individuals or groups who opposed them were therefore seen as enemies.

Thousands of members of left-wing political movements (socialists, communists, and trade unionists) were arrested and sent to concentration camps. There was some variation from country to country, but around 220,000 Roma and Sinti were murdered by the Nazis.

The effects of the Holocaust are still felt by survivors today. Their experiences have impacted both their physical and mental health and wellbeing, further influencing their children and families.

How can I take part in the commeration?

On Saturday 27 January, we commemorate the Holocaust to honour the victims and to urge the development of educational programmes to instill the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again.

We encourage you to come along to Royal Holloway’s Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration on Monday 29 January to read survivors’ testimonies, listen to a talk on Holocaust tourism and memorialisation on the Internet!

I stayed alive therefore I am.

?Imre Kertész

(Hungarian Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Laureate, 1929-2016) Source: Kaddish for a Child Not Born (1990)

Finally, check out “Our Living Memory” in order to find more information about Holocaust Memorial Day events. This project aims to engage students from different backgrounds in Holocaust Education and is run by the Union of Jewish Students, the National Union of Students and the Holocaust Educational Trust.

#OurLivingMemory #HMD2018

PETRA VARHEGYI
VICE-PRESIDENT OF ROYAL HOLLOWAY JEWISH SOCIETY