Why do we still remember?
The Holocaust happened so long ago that it seems to be confined to the history books, something which we can never, will never see again. So why do we set aside our time each year to remember it? Surely it cannot happen again. Surely, we tell ourselves, if we saw our neighbours being beaten, humiliated and killed we would stand up, we would stop it. We know the evil humans are capable of, we are capable of, so we know when to stop it.
It was wrong then and it is wrong now.
We said: never again.
But now we say: never again?
Genocides, the willingness and desire to eradicate, kill and destroy an entire people – their history, have continued long beyond 27th January 1945 when Auschwitz was liberated.
Last night, I stood with over 100 other people from all faiths and non, from all races and nationalities, and we remembered. We mourned the loss of life, we contemplated that which was and that which was not. Above all, we remembered. We served as the living memory of all those whose very existence was the target of the German’s murderous regime. As we lit 600 candles and placed them in the shape of a Magen David, we gave light to the darkness and understanding to the unknown. Estelle Laughlin, a Polish Holocaust Survivor, articulates what many of us struggle to understand. ‘Memory is what shapes us. Memory is what teaches us. We must understand that is where our redemption is’.
We must recognise the personal role we all play when confronted by the suffering of others. As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, ““We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the centre of the universe.”
Not only must we remember so as to continue the millions of voices whose chance to live was stolen, but to pledge that never again truly means never again.
To the 11 million whose birthday has now become their Yartzeit.