Holocaust Memorial Day 1
To give general background and rationale for
commemorating National Holocaust Memorial Day
On Sunday 27th January we hold a National Holocaust Memorial Day that
commemorates the death of 9 million Jews, gypsies and other Nazi
victims. The date was chosen because it was the day that the death camp
at Auschwitz was liberated at the end of World War 2.
A survey was recently completed by children aged between 11 and 18
years of age about historical events. Of those children 4% thought that
Adolf Hitler was Britain's war time leader. It is this kind of
ignorance that the Memorial day is trying to eliminate.
Racism, bigotry and prejudice exist in British society. There are
political groups in this country that want to eliminate democracy. More
votes for parties that preach race hate are cast each year. Racially
aggravated crimes are on the increase.
This is the story of a German Jew called Hans. He had suffered
persecution for many years before the breakout of war in 1939. His
first memory was in 1933 when he was just 6 years old. His father owned
a grocer's shop and the Nazis ransacked it, destroying everything
inside. His father had to sell the shop and the whole family moved
They moved to a town called Hamm, but soon afterwards their landlord
was warned that he would lose his job if he did not evict his Jewish
tenants. The family had to move on again.
The family were living in another town on the night when all the glass
of every Jewish home, shop and synagogue was smashed. Thousands of Jews
were beaten up or killed, or worse; taken to a concentration camp.
Hans remembers that night all too well.
They came at 4a.m. He recalls: There was my grandmother, my uncle and
his wife, my parents, my brother, sister and I living together. They
came in and ransacked the place. They took all our possessions. We were
in fear for our lives.
After that night Hans's mother knew that the situation was going to get
worse and when she heard plans to evacuate the children from Germany
she signed up her children. Hans left a week later, not knowing when he
would see his family again.
Indeed it was the last time he would ever see them, as his parents,
uncle and his wife and his grandmother were all later taken to
Auschwitz and executed.
Hans went to live in Austria until 1940 when that too was invaded by
the Nazis. He escaped on a boat with 80 other children and they headed
for England. He was just 13 years old when he arrived in England and he
had to learn a new language, culture and way of life.
It would be reassuring to think that Hans's story, although sad, was a
thing of the past. But in this country, and others, people are still
living in fear; having to move from place to place to ensure they keep
safe and all because people see them as being different; either
racially, culturally or physically.
Holocaust Memorial Day serves as a reminder to us all of our role, as
citizens of Britain, towards members of other ethnic and faith groups,
victims of prejudice and bigotry, immigrants, asylum seekers, or the
citizens of other countries afflicted by racism and tyranny.
Hands together, close your eyes.
Please make us good citizens of this country. Help us to act rather
than be a bystander when we see others acting in an unkind way to