By Christine Darg, Jerusalem Channel
One of the most challenging realities in this dangerous and fragile world on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2020, is that many people claim never to have heard of it!
A shocking new survey carried out by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has found that 5% of the British public deny the Holocaust with many more not understanding the extent of the genocide.
Today’s remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps will be one of the last major anniversaries in which about 200 survivors will still be alive to participate and to remind the world about the depths of human suffering and antisemitism –and the ability to survive it.
This past week has been a big reminder as world leaders converged in Jerusalem to honour the memory of more than six million who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.
Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Britain’s Prince Charles were among leaders to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, from over 40 countries who converged in Israel’s capital. It was Charles’s first official visit to Israel, the second member of the Royal Family officially to visit after his son, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, visited Israel in June 2018.
Addressing the largest international event in Israel’s history, the Prince of Wales spoke at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum of the “privilege” of meeting survivors, and the prince pledged to remember the enduring lessons of the Holocaust. More than 40 world leaders and 100 survivors were part of the fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Monday.
“The Holocaust must never be allowed to become simply a fact of history,” the prince said. “We must never cease to be appalled, nor moved by the testimony of those who lived through it. Their experience must always educate, and guide, and warn us. The lessons of the Holocaust are searingly relevant to this day.” He added that “75 years after the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart, still tell new lies, adopt new disguises, and still seek new victims.”
Vice-President Mike Pence noted that the word “remember” appears no fewer than 169 times in the Hebrew Bible. He noted that remembrance is the constant obligation of all generations. “As we honor and remember the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust, the world can only marvel at the faith and resilience of the Jewish people, who just three years after walking in the valley of the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to reclaim a Jewish future and rebuild the Jewish State.” Pence’s full remarks are at this link.
This week Britain’s Communities Secretary became the second British Secretary of State to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall within a space of a year, following then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s visit in July 2019. Mr Javid’s visit in July was the first by a British Government Minister in almost 20 years. Also Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab this week welcomed Chancellor Sajid Javid’s decision to freeze Hezbollah’s assets in the UK.
On the morning of 27 January 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps still held some 7,000 prisoners. Over a million people deported to Auschwitz perished there. It is estimated that six million Jews were exterminated in the death camps.
The Council of Europe was the moving spirit behind the introduction of a Day of Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. Education ministers from member states took the decision in October 2002. While Germany and France have chosen 27 January, the day when Auschwitz was liberated, Holocaust Day varies in other countries according to the respective historical experience.
Meanwhile, in a breakthrough, Muslim religious leaders joined members of a US Jewish group at Auschwitz on Thursday for what organizers described as “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the site of a Nazi German death camp. The visit came four days before the 75th anniversary of the camp’s January 27, 1945, liberation by Soviet forces and as world leaders gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the Holocaust.