Log in

'To remember the holocaust is important'

The welcoming speech from the University of Sussex's recent Holocaust Memorial Day event by Abraham, Union President.


To remember the holocaust is important. Seventy years later, it is as important to remember today as it was then.

Three years ago, I visited Srebrenica, a name which is now synonymous not with a village in Bosnia, but with a massacre. There is a long tradition of europeans imagining themselves as elevated. The massacre happened in 1995, two days before my third birthday, and to see the bullet holes in the houses was a powerful reminder that we are in danger of forgetting the 1940s.

Two years ago I met Munesh Kapila, the head of the UN development program in South Sudan during the ethnic cleansing of 2003 and 2004. When speaking about what happened in Darfur, I was struck by how recently these events took place, but a few years ago. To me, this demonstrates that the human capability to dehumanise and systematically exterminate has not gone away.

And that is why it is important to remember the holocaust: as a prompt to remain vigilant against the eruption of evil in our everyday lives. The cast of wrongdoers, now and then, were ordinary people.

The holocaust was unique in terms of scale, but the intervening seventy years of atrocities and attempted examinations have proved that the human capacity for destruction remains undiminished. 
  
Today, then, is a day for remembrance. For remembrance of the jews, the roma, the queer, and the disabled who were systematically murdered. Every year, the number of survivors of the holocaust decreases. We must ensure that remembrance of the holocaust does not decline alongside them. 

The theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day is “don’t stand by”. This is a lesson that is especially relevant today, at a time when racism is on the rise across Europe. Today, Europe faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The majority of asylum seekers and refugees in the 1930s were Jewish. Today, they are Syrian. 

Looking in the newspapers of the 1930s, I was struck by the intolerance on display. British Newspapers talking of “German jews pouring into this country”; the political discourse at the time mirrored that which we see today. That the Prime Minister is comfortable describing refugees as “a bunch of migrants” on television on Holocaust Memorial Day shows how far our political discourse has slid. We need to remember what happens when we demonise a group of people - be they jewish, or syrian. Rabid intolerance of refugees has a long british pedigree, and it is up to all of us to stand up to it. 

So the message I will leave you with, is this. “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim" (from Elie Wiesel's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986).We are a long way from 1937. But then, as now, we must not stand by.

 

Contact us

Got a comment/criticism about anything discussed in this article? Let us know on our social media channels!

facebook.com/thestudentsunion

twitter.com/ussu

instagram.com/sussexsu

Related news

 
Ten things about the 2019 European Parliament Elections

Wed 22 May 2019

Unsure what it's all about? Read our top ten facts to keep you in the loop.

 
What's it like being a Student Rep?

Tue 14 May 2019

Afreen Begum, Student Rep for Postgraduate Law, tells us about her life-changing experience of being a Student Rep.

 
Sussex Represented at the NUS National Conference 2019

Wed 08 May 2019

Riz Millanzi, Aditi Vas, Afreen Begum, Daniel Burke and May Gabriel went to Glasgow to represent the University of Sussex Students’ Union at the NUS National Conference, which was held from 9-11 April 2019. Riz and Aditi share their experience.

 
Referenda results announced

Thu 02 May 2019

Over 600 students voted in the last referendum of the academic year. Thank you to all who voted.
A referendum is a direct vote in which all full members of the Union are asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal on a range of questions put forward by students at Sussex. Students are asked to vote “yes” or “no” to a particular question; the outcome of which shapes the Students’ Union, ensuring that it is student-led

 
Your Vote, Your Voice! Referenda, local elections and Student Reps

Wed 24 Apr 2019

Over the next few days, you will be able vote in the Brighton & Hove local elections, the Students' Union Referenda and for your Student Reps.

 
 

This list is automatically generated

View all news »