Saturday 27-01-2018 - 10:00
This year marks 73 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. On this day, we remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the millions of people killed in Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
On Holocaust Memorial Day we remember the abhorrence that can manifest when discrimination, hatred, and racism go unchallenged. We remember the huge scale of the antisemitic sentiment and subsequent persecution, that when left unchecked lead to deportation, mass murder, and genocide. We also remember that this was not simply limited to one place but rather that many governments and politicians across Europe made such sentiment acceptable through statements and actions, including denying safety to refugees, and too often, through no statements or actions at all.
Currently, we are fortunate enough here in the UK; we are not at risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. There is still much to do to create a safer future for next generations. It is a time to go further than remembering, but when we collectively cry ‘Never Again!’, we must mean it. We must always promise to fight against the normalization and institutionalization of discrimination and hate across society, wherever we see it manifest.
On Holocaust Memorial Day we can honor the survivors of these regimes of hatred and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today. Holocaust Memorial Day is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism, and hatred are not checked and prevented.
Izzy Lenga, NUS Vice President (Welfare), commented: "It is our duty and responsibility as student leaders to ensure the stories of those who perished and the messages from those who survived are passed forward for generations to come to keep the message alive, and too truly mean it when we say #neveragain."
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme is ‘The Power of Words.’ This theme explores how language has been used in the past, and how it is used in the present day. Words have a mighty power, articulating what is otherwise unsaid. They can reflect thoughts, views, and attitudes, and can also play an active role in shaping them. Kind words can take on disproportionate power in times of intimidation and insecurity, where some people are victimized and persecuted. Words have immense power, and we must use this power for good.
Words used to good effect can restore hope, courage or faith. Words can challenge prevailing views and can state solidarity. Words that are used to ill-effect, when seen or heard, can normalise what might otherwise have been considered too extreme. Harsh words, or words that feed negative stereotypes, can fuel tensions, increase vulnerability and even incite violence. To correspond with this year’s theme Izzy has put together written resources that we have shared throughout the week, and are accessible below.
These include a guide on how to get your University or students' union to be involved and pay their respects and also a series of memorial resources including prayers, poems, testimonies of survivors and suggestions on films to screen.
These resources also form part of the #OurLivingMemory campaign – a joint campaign run by Izzy, UJS (Union of Jewish student) and HET (Holocaust Educational Trust). The #OurLivingMemory campaign draws attention to the reality of the past, how as students and unions we cannot forget but learn and can grow from the past and embrace our responsibility as student leaders to ensure the messages of the Holocaust are never forgotten, and this work will continue post-Holocaust Memorial Day.
You can find out more about why getting involved in the Our Living Memory campaign is important here
To conclude, please keep us updated on how you are commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day this year. Make sure your union is joining in on the conversation today by using the #HMD2018 and #OurLivingMemory hashtags.
Let’s continue at NUS to use our platform, to demonstrate how the lessons of the past can inform our lives today and ensure that everyone works together to create a safer, better future.