Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, ‘Speak up, Speak Out’

30 Dec

 

I actually wrote this January 2012 and forgot to post and just found it on my laptop, so here goes…Holocaust Memorial Day 2012

It is now over 60 years since the horror of the holocaust where millions of jews, gypsies, gays, disabled, anyone and everyone who was not a nazi were murdered. Many people in this day in age will not think of this day, for it would not be in their life time, but there are many who will never forget the horror of the holocaust, the survivors. 11 million people were killed in the nazi death camps during the holocaust, roughly 6 million of these are Jews. The nazis killed approximately two thirds of all Jews living in Europe. An estimated 1.1 million children were murdered. The nazis establish 39 different concentration camps in total with six extermination centres in Poland, 1.5 million Jews died at Auswitz.

On January 27 2012 it will be Holocaust Memorial Day. It is an opportunity for everyone to learn lessons from the Holocaust, Nazi persecution, and subsequent genocides and apply them to the present to create a safer, better future. It is using the past to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.

The Holocaust has always been an interest of mine, my mum’s side of the family is Jewish, my Grandad was Polish. He lost members of his family in the Holocaust but thankfully managed to escape. No matter I how much learn the harder I find to take in the enormity of what happened. I struggle to comprehend how human beings could be so evil to another fellow human being. How people could wipe out so many lives on an unimaginable scale simply because of who they were. Did they ever feel any conscience in what they were doing? whilst people were starving to death, dying of diseases in the thousands, children being murdered did they ever think of those people as individuals.

In May 2010 I went on a trip to Poland where I managed to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is hard to explain my feelings of this trip, I guess one word would be surreal. I felt very emotional and knowing how much suffering went on in a place where I was standing.

The reason I decided to write a bit about this subject is through educating myself the past week. Having heard Holocaust Memorial Day was coming I decided to read up on the website. I noticed the words ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’. It made me realise that it is not just rememebering what happened during that dark time but it is up to me and anyone else as an individual to challenge ourselves now.

Descrimination still goes on this day. People are murdered because of the colour of their skin. It was 1996 that Stephen Lawrence at the age of 18 was brutally murdered just simply because he was black. Gregory H Stanton writes, calling someone a name, or referring to a group of people with a derogatory term allows a period of classification and dehumanisation to take place. During the Holocaust, Jews were referred to as ‘vermin’; in doing so the Nazis made it easy for those who stood by to not think of Jewish people as people or individuals with feelings, beliefs and dignity. This is not a one off; name-calling took place in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, with Tutsis being called ‘cockroaches’ again taking away their humanity and reducing men, women and children to vermin that can be easily destroyed. It is this that we must keep in mind when we choose to use language that may divide and exclude and instead replace the words we use with those of respect and dignity.

I can’t change society but I know I can challenge myself in the language I use and the words I say. It can be difficult to speak up but as I focus on Holocaust Memorial Day I hope it will not solely be just one day but that it will be in my mind everyday.

“Words are powerful. With them we can heal or harm. Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 asks you to Speak Up, Speak Out and to carefully consider the way you use language in person, on line or when speaking about other people.”

 

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