Today is an important day – we stop and remember arguably the single greatest evil in human history, the Holocaust.
The attempted extermination of an entire religious group, the Jews, by the Nazis is a stain on mankind that no amount of scrubbing can ever wash clean. Around six million Jewish men, women and children were killed in the most repugnant of ways and two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population was wiped out.
I find it absolutely terrifying how many people went along with it, how many supposedly ordinary people were capable of so much hatred, how many were complicit in genocide.
This is exactly why we need to keep discussing the Holocaust, to have a day where we devote our minds to the memory of those who perished, but also to think about the pure evil of it all. If we don’t remember, then, obviously, we forget, and it makes it more likely that something like the holocaust happens again.
It’s a horrifically morbid insight into the human brain isn’t it, into human nature. Of course at the root of it all lies Adolph Hitler, and yes there was propaganda, brainwashing and the ability to cover up, perhaps, the true extent of the genocide from many members of the public, but there were an astonishing amount of people who knew what was taking place and went along with it.
Not just the slaughter, but the ghettoization of Jews, rounding them up, smashing up their businesses, making them wear yellow stars…branding them. And that’s the thing – it didn’t start with out and out mass murder, it built up to it.
And that is why it’s so important to root out evil so early on, to stop its progression. But the persecution of the Jewish people didn’t stop when the concentration camps closed, there is still anti-semitism taking place today.
The recent attack on a bus full of Jewish children on Oxford Street in London is a prime example, children were subjected to nazi salutes and even spat at. There were record levels of anti-semitism reported in the UK last year – and just yesterday two elderly Orthodox Jewish bakers were attacked in Stamford Hill.
If we go a bit further back, there was the six day war in 1967 – a collection of Arab countries co-conspired to wipe Israel off the face of the map, goodness only knows what would have happened to the Jewish population if they had succeeded.
But despite the Holocaust showing the very worst of humankind, some elements of it show the very best as well. The will to survive at all costs, the inner strength of people who are desperate to cling to life.
All the non-Jewish people who helped hide entire families, the compassion, empathy and support they showed. The sacrifices they made as well. All the allied troops who laid down their lives to defeat arguably the greatest ever evil. People making the ultimate sacrifice so others could live.
From the baron, scorched earth of Aushwitz and Dacau, ultimately new life flourished. The rebirth of a community, determined to come back from the brink, yes, I’m sure with hate in their hearts but also, crucially, hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a brighter future, hope that history never repeats itself.