Abraham Baldry, Union President
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.
Got a comment/criticism about anything discussed in this article? Let us know on our social media channels!
Fri 14 Dec 2018
Nominate yourself for Full and Part-Time Officer roles, NUS Delegate and Student Trustee positions until 9am on the 11th of February!
Tue 04 Dec 2018
Mon 03 Dec 2018
Since the start of term, your elected Officers have been working towards progressing on their priorities and manifesto points.
Here is a summary of what each Officer has been getting up to!
Fri 30 Nov 2018
This week, students have cast their votes to influence the work that the Students’ Union does through our Autumn referendum.
Mon 26 Nov 2018
Following the introduction of The Loop, departments are now able to read student feedback and take these on board with the hopes of introducing some improvements
This list is automatically generated
View all news »