As part of Holocaust Memorial Day, this blog post is a reflection on the impact of genocide on the lives of individuals. Right now, people are being killed, and entire communities destroyed, in many places in the world. And even after all these years, we still haven’t eradicated genocide in our global consciousness or addressed the impact on individuals, society and the world.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust states: “Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year. It’s a time for everyone to pause to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. On HMD we can honour the survivors of these regimes and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
HMD 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. We’re fortunate 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 and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.”
So why write about Anne Frank? Everyone knows her story. And yet many see it as just that, a sad, poignant story but one about a past we never thought would come again. That is our Western-Centric and limited view of such events. Anne Frank’s work is more important now, after 73 years, than ever, because it brings alive the experience of one person who was persecuted and, yes, killed, as a result of wholesale prejudice, political tyranny and social tolerance of violence and marginalisation. Social tolerance. People just like us who allowed this to happen.
One diary. One little book covering a period of around two years. Yet it is one of the most famous books in the world. Anne didn’t know, when she wrote it, that it would make her the writer she dreamed of being.
We all have dreams, goals, desires and visions for the life we would like to live. Hers are enshrined in this diary, and signify the life she never got to live. There are thousands, or even millions, who suffered in similar ways, who continue to suffer, whose lives are cut short, whose voices were never heard. Voices silenced forever. Stories forever untold. We grieve at all the potential Anne Frank displayed in her youthful diary, and wonder at the life she might have lived. She is the symbol of all those who never get the chance to live the life they should have had.
So it is incumbent upon us, those of us who are privileged to live with greater freedoms than she had, to stand up and argue for the eradication of genocide from the face of this planet.
We must stand up against tyranny, in all its forms, and against prejudice. Stand against sexism, racism, classism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia. Stand against religious prejudice, intolerance and discrimination. Stand against ANY individual or group which seeks to limit those freedoms we have fought so hard for. We can agree to disagree and still support each other to enjoy our own freedoms.
Many of us have led comfortable lives because others stood up for our rights. Many of us have been activists driving forward equality agendas. We have won many battles, built many strong foundations, but we cannot lay down our tools just yet. The world is changing, always, consciousness growing and shrinking simultaneously, and we face new emergent threats from many sources. It starts with us, as individuals, and grows as we grow together into a unified front that will NOT tolerate hate in any form.
On this Holocaust memorial day, write a diary entry, or a blog post, or a note, or a tweet, or a Facebook post, about who you are and the freedoms you believe in. Share your story. Inspire others. As Anne Frank shows, just one story can change the world. Imagine what thousands could do?
Alys Einion January 27th, 2017
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