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Forces War Records Blog

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY: GENOCIDE VICTIMS REMEMBERED ACROSS WORLD

Survivors, military veterans, politicians and schoolchildren mark day of remembrance with thousands of events.

Victims and survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur have been remembered at ceremonies across the world on Holocaust Memorial Day. In what is widely regarded as the greatest crime in human history, around six million Jews were murdered during the second world war. Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Chosen to be the place of the "final solution of the Jewish question in Europe", up to 1.3 million people – 90% of them Jews – died in the Nazi programme of systematic state-sponsored murder at the camp between early 1942 and 1945. This year's theme for the memorial day – Communities Together: Build a Bridge – was explored by survivors, military veterans, religious leaders, politicians and schoolchildren at an estimated 1,500 activities across the UK. "There is no doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world," said Michael Cleere, the civic orator of a service at St George's Cathedral in south London before a wreath-laying ceremony at the Imperial War Museum. Quoting the anthropologist Margaret Mead, he continued: "It is the only thing that ever has worked and the only thing that ever will." Mass acts of civil disobedience in Bulgaria during the war ensured not a single Nazi deportation took place, said Lady Neuberger, making it the only country to end the second world war with a bigger Jewish population than it had at the beginning. Similarly determined acts of collective resistance in Denmark saved more than 99% of the Jewish population from deportation and death, Neuberger added. In Albania, not a single Jew was handed over to the Nazis. "We should praise [those who set a lead and those who work with them] and ask why the same didn't happen elsewhere," she said. "Who are those who actually objected and what did each of us do to object further? "We have to ask ourselves if we would do the same [as those who risked their lives to save those threatened by genocide]," Neuberger added. "Do we have the courage to listen to our consciences? We can do it, if we work with our communities." Next week, David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP who accused "the Jews" in Israel of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians … on a daily basis" will meet his party whips to discuss the controversy. Last week, Ward said he was "saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza". Ward apologised for the "unintended offence" after his party condemned his use of language. In a blogpost on Saturday he wrote: "I never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused. "I recognise, of course, the deep sensitivities of these issues at all times, and particularly on occasions of commemoration such as this weekend." He said his criticisms "of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the state of Israel remain as strong as ever". source: guardian.co.uk
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