Written By Councillor William McCandless
Since 2005 the 27th Jan is commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Auschwitz - Birkenau camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust. I am sure many of you have read the horrific accounts of survivors such as Elie Wiesel, Victor Frankl and Primo Levi.
Auschwitz, a complex of concentration and extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during WW 2 was liberated by Soviet forces on 27th Jan 1945, seventy seven years ago. Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2 - Birkenau a labour camp, concentration and extermination centre.Initially constructed as an Army barracks it was converted into a POW camp in 1939 and housed Polish inmates for its first two years. In 1941 Polish and Soviet prisoners were gassed there and from 1942 - 1944 freight trains delivered Jews from all over Nazi occupied Europe to the gas chambers. Approximately 1.3M people were sent to Auschwitz, of these 1.1M were murdered of which nearly 90% were Jews.
Some people may say why should we remember such a horrible event?Shouldn’t we move on and forget the past? To answer that I say "These are exactly the reasons why we should remember". Reading and listening to stories such as The Diary of Anne Frank gives us an insight into the persecution suffered by the Jews and remembering these stories means that they are passed down through the generations and remain to be passed on.
One of the survivors Primo Levi said "Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions".
We must all learn the mistakes of the past to prevent and ensure that they never happen again. This is not just about how the Nazis treated the Jews in WW2 but also about how we treat all of humanity. Simon Wiesenthal said "the Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a human tragedy".
Unfortunately many acts of genocide have occurred since the 2nd WW :- Bosnia Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chechnya, Myanmar, Rwanda, Yemen, to name a few.
It is important for us to respect diversity whether in colour, race or religion. This is why we should remember the Holocaust and the story it tells.It must never be forgotten and it is important we all remember it.