Holocaust Memorial Day 2016

27 Jan 2016 by CST

Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorated annually on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Bikenau, is a reminder of what extreme and unhindered racism, xenophobia and antisemitism can lead to.

The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 is ‘Don’t stand by’. Defeating racism and antisemitism should not be left to a select few. Everybody has a responsibility to oppose and help minimise such hatreds. Elie Wiesel, who endured the Holocaust as a prisoner in Auschwitz, Buna and Buchenwald concentration camps, declared that he would never stand by:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

There is no doubt that British Jews are worried at this time. In 2014 CST reported a surge in antisemitic incidents, with 1179 antisemitic incidents recorded, and in 2015 we regrettably saw terror attacks carried out against the Jewish community in Europe - a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January 2015 and the tragic murder of Jewish security volunteer Dan Uzan Z”L in Copenhagen in February 2015. These incidents are a stark reminder that it is pivotal that we defeat antisemitism in all it’s forms and we do not simply stand by. These incidents demonstrate that Holocaust Memorial Day is just as relevant and important as ever.  

Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller’s reflections on the Holocaust are still poignant today. They stress the need to speak up when we see those around us being persecuted and discriminated against:

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.

Don’t stand by. Antisemitic incidents can take several forms, including physical attacks on people or property, verbal or written abuse and threats, or antisemitic graffiti, leaflets or posters. You can report an incident whether you are the victim or a witness. Report all antisemitic incidents to CST and in an emergency call the Police on 999.


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Senior Rabbi, Reform Judaism