Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day is next Monday, so VP Welfare & Diversity Lucy Simpson and Jewish Society President Petra Varhegyi take a moment to look back and reflect on the events that occurred.

Every year, the world comes together to remember and mourn the victims of the Holocaust. On 27 January, each year we remember the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945 by the Allied troops.

This day marks a triumph of good over evil, but also denotes a horrendous time in human history. Over a period of 12 years, the Nazis used propaganda and legislation to deny the basic human rights of Jews, Roma/Sinti, LGBTQ+, disabled and political opponents as well as other individuals.

Persecution began by limiting the civil rights of Jewish civilians, boycotting Jewish owned businesses and making marriages between Jewish and non-Jewish people illegal (Nuremberg Laws). On one occasion in 1938 - Kristallnacht - an estimated 91 Jews were killed, 30,000 arrested and 267 synagogues destroyed. Many shops and other Jewish businesses were destroyed and looted (Holocaust Memorial Day Trust , 2020).

In 1941 the Nazis began a programme of extermination known as “The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem”. Over the following four years, it is estimated that six million Jews were murdered in extermination camps, ghettos and mass killings, in addition to the millions of people killed under Nazi persecution across Europe.

Sadly, this was not the first time that the world has persecuted Jews. Anti-Semitism is a common theme found across the world and throughout history. Since the Jews left Egypt they have been persecuted time and again, Venice was the first place to develop a Jewish ‘ghetto’, but you can see them across the world. In Italy, Morocco, Shanghai and the UK, segregation of minority groups was a common practice.

Each year on 27 January, we remind ourselves that the Holocaust won’t happen again, we tell ourselves that we have learned the lesson and that no one would allow it to reoccur. However, the sad truth is that genocide has continued across the world, and it still occurs today. Humans continue to discriminate and persecute against individuals associated with minority groups. In the last 75 years since the Holocaust, there have been genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur and Bosnia to name but a few.

So What Can We Take From This?

It seems that humans are determined to hate each other and not learn from our past crimes. We pride ourselves on being a progressive society, but we ignore the aspects that we don’t like. The truth is that we are seeing an increase in hate crimes, homophobia, racism and all forms of discriminatory behaviour are on the rise across the UK and other parts of the world (BBC, 2019). However, we can change this!

We can stop it, we can make an effort to educate ourselves and others on the discrimination felt by so many, for so many reasons. We can learn that our differences are not to be feared, they should be celebrated. It is our differences that make us unique, special and an individual, it is our differences that ultimately make us human.

We can step in when we see people having abuse hurled at them and when micro-aggressions happen. It was Edmund Burke who wrote (in 1770) The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” this is as true today as it was 250 years ago.

You can find out more about Holocaust Memorial Day here.

Two-minute Silence

At 11am on Monday 27 January we will be observing a two-minute silence to commemorate the millions of people who lost their lives or suffered during The Holocaust, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

The date also marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.

The silence will be observed within the Students' Union, as well as Tommy's Kitchen, The Packhorse and the Union Shop. We ask all customers to join us in silence as we come together to reflect and remember those who have experienced terrible atrocities.

Lucy Simpson // Vice President Welfare & Diversity

Petra Varhegyi // President, Jewish Society