Marking Holocaust Memorial Day
January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day. A day that prompts those of us who champion the principles of equality, diversity, inclusion, and human rights, to reaffirm our commitment to work alongside others to help shape a common future for the good of all, and to make our individual contributions, however flickering, to be part of a greater communal ‘light in the darkness’.
The motivations of those who commit genocide are complex, but we recognise that many of the victims were targeted for reasons to do with matters of identity, whether of race, ethnicity, faith, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or for their political views. As well as the deaths that result from genocide there are gender differences in the experience of genocidal violence. Perpetrators utilise gendered acts of violence such as sexual assault, often fuelled by existing misogynistic attitudes, to maximise the crime’s destructive impact on the targeted group. The traumatic impact for survivors is magnified by financial, social, and cultural gender inequalities.
As members and chairs of the university’s Equality Fora, we stand together and resolute, and agree that an attack on any section of humanity is an attack on all of humanity.
At 7pm on 27th January, Holocaust Memorial Day itself, there will be a live stream of the national commemoration hosted by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. This UK Commemorative event brings together the civic, faith, and political leadership of the country, alongside survivors of the Holocaust and more recent genocides. Afterwards, at 8pm, all are invited to place a lighted candle in the window of their homes, echoing the theme of this year’s commemoration to “Be the light in the darkness”.
Over the last five years the level of hate crime, across all protected characteristics, has seen a shocking increase. Holocaust Memorial Day highlights the role we all play in confronting the horrors of genocide in all its manifestations – becoming part of the light, standing together, in solidarity, against that darkness. The Trust’s website offers a rich amount of information and resources about the Day and the reasons behind it. Tickets for the national event may also be booked on the website.
Holocaust Memorial Day in not merely a day of observance. The historian Prof Rainer Schulze (University of Essex), writing in a 2015 blog for the H M D Trust, commemorating the victims of the Roma and Sinti genocides:
“Commemoration is never an end in itself. In order to be meaningful, commemoration needs to remember the past in order to shape our common future. If the Holocaust teaches us anything, it surely tells us loudly that when the human rights of one group are violated, no group can feel safe.”
As a university community, let us stand firm against genocide in all its forms; remembering the lives lost, and damaged, and in so doing contributing our light, with that of others, against the darkness of fear and hate.