Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when we take time to remember those killed by the Nazis during World War II because of their race, their sexuality, their politics, their disability.
We also remember the others killed simply because they were from another tribe, another race, another religion in other Genocides in Bosnia, in Rwanda, in Kurdistan & Iraq, in Syria, in India & Pakistan, in Sri Lanka, in Burma, in Tibet & far too many other places around the world.
However, it is not enough to just to remember. We must also learn from these Genocides, we must learn to watch for the signs the precede them, actions and talk that pave the way for such hatred, that open the door to allow such behaviour.
Today we see the rise of people around the world who are peddling the same hate speak that we saw in the 1930’s, politicians who try to make an entire people or religion the scapegoat for problems, public figures who suggest “sensible”, “common sense” policy aimed at restricting a certain sector of the population, headlines in papers that make the race or colour of a criminal part of why we must condemn them. Sometimes these action are small and may seem justified or proportionate to deal with a perceived problem but slowly, over time, these small actions can build & build as they did in pre-war Germany.
We see this in the USA, in countries here in Europe, in Turkey, in parts of Africa, even (and as a Jew & Israeli most painfully) in Israel. The demonising of the “other”, the making of the problem not simply an individual or certain organisations but the whole people, taking the bad actions of a few individuals and saying that every one of the same colour, race, nationality or religion are to blame. Here in the UK we are even seeing newspaper headlines from the 1930’s that stoked hatred against Jewish refugees from Germany now being reprinted to preach hatred of Syrian refugees.
So go to the special exhibitions & concerts being held today, go and remember the inhumanity was inflicted on others by “ordinary” people but also remember that what happened then can happen again now, that it can happen again anywhere unless we are vigilant, that unless we learn from the past the remembrance of the Holocaust is a hollow gesture.