Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on 27 January each year to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides, which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children had been murdered in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps.
In the UK and around the world, millions of people face prejudice, discrimination and hostility simply because of their identity. Holocaust Memorial Day is a day of commemoration and a reminder that we need to take action to challenge these attitudes and behaviours.
The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2022 is One Day. There are many ways to interpret the theme, some of which are outlined here.
The Holocaust Memorial Trust provides a wealth of information about the Holocaust and genocide, as well as ways in which you can engage with this year’s theme. For example, you could:
Pick One Day in History and learn about that day.
Use this theme as motivation to speak out One Day in the future when you see injustices, prejudices, and identity-based violence.
The Holocaust Memorial Trust documents life stories of survivors of genocide.
Read about The Babi Yar massacre which started on 29 September 1941, devastated the Jewish community of Kiev and marked one of the deadliest single operations during the Holocaust.
Read about life stories of genocide survivors such as Mussa Uwitonze: Mussa Uwitonze became an orphan after being separated from his family during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
I was at a Holocaust memorial event and a sweet old lady was speaking as a survivor.The traumas she shared were heart-breaking. She was very upbeat and optimistic about the future while hoping that the horror she experienced first-hand never happened again in human history. It struck me when she mentioned that she suffers from dementia and that even when she forgets other things, the memories of the genocide are very vivid in her brain, she remembers every minute detail of the horror. No human should ever have such experiences imprinted in their brain. Such horror should never have happened.
I was taken aback though when she mentioned that during an event she was speaking at, someone asked her if she felt guilty about being alive when many died. I have no idea why anyone, especially when they are not her therapist, would ask such question. The only one who should feel guilty are the monsters who committed the crime and the monsters who stood by and did nothing. They are the guilty ones.
Her response to the question was that God must have kept her alive to tell the story. Immediately my heart sank.
This idea that there was a God who could have stopped the genocide but chose instead to spare the lives of a few people just so they could tell of the horrors they saw, was indeed a notion I struggle to wrap my head around. It reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible, his God-induced sufferings as a test of his faith and the immorality of this human creation called God.
I know if I had any superpower that would have allowed me to prevent such terrible events such as genocides, of course I would use my superpowers even if it cost me the last reserve of my superpower. I mean, is that not the stuff heroes are made of? Always ready to help humanity, anyone in need even if it means going that very extra length? Is this not why we love Spiderman, Superman, Voltron, Wonder woman and all great action heroes and heroines? Why can’t we expect same of God? Is God not a hero or is there a double standard for heroes?
This leads me to Epicurus age old unanswered question: –
” Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
I think we hesitate to call people out on this thought process because it is often difficult to call out someone who has been through a trauma. We say to ourselves, this isn’t the time or place. Yes, maybe it isn’t. However, there should be a time and a place to eventually have the discussion. For those who lost loved ones in fatal events and have to listen to survivors say things like “God must have spared my life for a reason”, must hurt. it is as if their loved one who died in the same incident was not deemed worthy to be saved by God. Their loved ones were not good enough to be the chosen ones by Sky Daddy. It must hurt. I wrote about this in my blog posts Why “Thank God I survived” or “God knows best” is a terrible thing to say in the aftermath of a fatal disaster and Natural Disasters are certainly not a time to thank God!
The world leaders who stood aside and did nothing to prevent the genocides are the anti-heroes and are as complicit as the perpetrators.
It is our hope that we will never again make the mistakes of the past and that One Day we will live in a world where genocide, racism, and discrimination in all its ugly form does not exist anymore. We can only achieve this by taking action.
As the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said – “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”.