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Join NUS in commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Tuesday 21 January 2020 Campaigns News

January 27 is Holocaust Memorial Day. NUS Vice President Eva Cossan Jory tells us why we should commemorate this important date. Find out how you can get involved by exploring our NUS Campaigns Hub

"Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a key event when understanding the Holocaust. The memorial day marks and remembers the six million Jews and millions of others killed under Nazi persecution, and the millions more whose lived were forever changed by the regime. HMD also marks subsequent genocides at Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur. This year, it is also 25 years since the Srebrenica massacre in the Bosnian war, which HMD recognises.

The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation. The magnitude of the Holocaust must be held in our collective memory. The starkness of the warning that the Holocaust gave us must not be overlooked – but yet, so often the balance of our world feels fragile and vulnerable, and warning signs are ignored. We must never be complacent in the face of genocide. Whether it is on the international stage or within our individual families and communities, we must remember the terrible truth of the Holocaust. We must strengthen the moral commitment of the human race to understand and stand against the causes of the Holocaust and guard against repeating it and its terrible consequences. We must not forget.

In recent years, destabilisation has threatened the order of society internationally, and at home. Anti-Semitism seen in incidents and crimes should be a clear warning to us of the crumbling of efforts towards equality and human rights. You can also see this in the rise in racism, LGBT+ hate incidents, government-led disablism, and rhetoric driving Brexit that exploits and widens division in society – and more. Against the backdrop of a climate crisis in the making, a catastrophe that will disproportionately hit people internationally denied a home and seeking asylum, these developments points us to the sheer scale of the human cost if we allow the conditions that lead to genocide to arise again.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is Stand Together. This recognises that the steps leading to genocide include creating an “Us versus Them”, and propaganda with the purpose of dividing us. This has become too easy in recent times to see in the rhetoric that is driving decisions at a governmental level, in politics, and in what is written in our newspapers. Politicians see an opportunity for advancement. The most marginalised in our society pay the price. Increasing division and the newfound acceptability of identity-based hostility in our society can only be stopped by solidarity and community.

Individuals often feel strongly and personally that the atrocities under the Nazi regime should not be repeated. However, we must remember that the Holocaust happened following policies and propaganda that encouraged divisions within German society – urging separate lives and dissolving community links between neighbours. As such it’s key to listen to the voices of those targeted by hate, and by divisive policies. Whether they’re Jewish or Roma, disabled or trans, marginalised and vilified voices must be respected as understanding their own experience of hate and marginalisation. We have to listen when we’re told about the effects of hate.

But listening isn’t enough. As Sir Nicholas Winton said, “Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good”. And part of this is recognising our own faults, and how we replicate and perpetrate systemic violence within our societies, often without knowing. It’s not enough to acknowledge to ourselves we have done wrong to others. When we’re told we’ve perpetrated systemic oppression or hate, we need to actively educate ourselves to understand what we’ve done wrong, communicate this beyond just the individual we’ve wronged, and work to ensure we and the others around us don’t replicate that injustice again. Only through this proactive process of reconciliation can we build communities to stand together and strong against division.

And this is where students today are in a unique position to help shape a positive future during dark times. It is unsurprising in an era where hate crime is rising, that rhetoric seeks to ridicule students who work towards equity in society – students called “snowflakes” for demanding an end to racist speech undermines confidence and understanding in that work. And yet by actively educating ourselves – in the classroom, and in our relationships within our communities – we have an opportunity to bring people together. The Holocaust Memorial Day has always been centred in education. We can honour and recognise the day through education. Whether it’s anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, cissexism, disablism, or heterosexism, we must understand and discuss how it’s perpetrated and hold up the voices of those who experience it. When we explore the atrocities of the past we can understand the oppressions of the present. We can shine a light on injustice through educating ourselves, and educating each other, and being educated by those we remember. And rather than be divided, through education, we can stand together."


From film screenings, survivor testimonies to hosting a play, explore how your Student Union can get involved via our NUS campaigns hub.