Surya Jonckheere went along to the Lancashire County Hall and Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters to hear the talks given by guest speakers in respect of the Holocaust Memorial Day.Advertisement
Stephen Breuer, a Holocaust survivor based in Lancaster, spoke today at the Lancashire County Hall in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Several young speakers from local schools and colleges joined Mr Breuer, who was born in Pápa, Hungary, to share their experience of visiting the notorious concentration camp situated in Poland
Opening the ceremony, County Councillor Marcus Johnstone reminded the audience of the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda and the on-going genocide happening in Darfur. Holocaust Memorial Day as Mr Breuer put it, is a day to remember not only the murder of 6 million Jews but also all the other people systematically killed for their identity or origin.
Shortly after the Councillor’s introduction, the head of the Lancaster Jewish community, Stanley Henig, recited the kaddish, the Jewish mourner’s prayer, to honour the memories of those who died during World War II, before lighting a traditional Jewish memorial candle that is set to burn for 48 hours.
As a young speaker said “staying silent is enabling these genocides, it is therefore important to educate our generation and to remember what happened.”
In a moving speech about his experience of the Shoah, Mr Breuer talked about the approximately 11 million people who were murdered during the war, including the disabled, homosexuals, Gypsies, Freemasons and political dissidents, as well as Russian war prisoners.
Speaking of how statistics and numbers are hard to imagine, Mr Breuer mentioned an analogy that has helped him: “Imagine commemorating each individual that was killed with a minute of silence, guess how long that would take you,” he said eliciting answers from the audience. “If you were to have a minute of silence for each of the 11 million people that died at the hands of the Nazis, it would take you 21 years. And if you were to have a minute of silence for the main group, the estimated 6 million Jews, it would take you 11 and a half years.”
Mr Breuer, who lost most of his family during the war, went on to speak about the more recent genocides such as the Armenians in Turkey or the Tutsis in Rwanda. “If you want to summarise these atrocious events in one sentence, it should be ‘they shouldn’t be here.’”
Talking about his family and the survival of two of his five uncles, Mr Breuer said “it was just a matter of luck, not virtue or kindness, I was lucky, just lucky.” Mr Breuer was just a little boy when the war broke out but he remembers seeing his family being deported to Auschwitz, where most of them met their death.
Despite the horrible experiences Mr Breuer lived through, his speech and testimony were a message full of hope. Mr Breuer hopes that the young generations will learn from past mistakes and therefore finds it important to talk to students in schools like he has done for the past nine years.
Members of the community and the police forces were invited to speak at the Lancashire Constabulary Headquarters Today in a ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust.
Today the police remembered the lives of millions of people killed during WWII in the name of hate. In a series of inspiring and moving speeches, speakers from all denominations and backgrounds addressed recent police graduates about the horrors of the war and their relevance with today’s world and their work.
“What relevance is this to policing?” asked Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques about the Holocaust, “Well you only need to look at what’s going on in the world at the moment to realise that we deal with the consequences of hate, in many guises, whether it’s within a relationship, whether it is on the street on a Saturday night, whether it’s global, whether it’s based on religion, race or background.”
“What the significance of today is all about is what can happen when hate takes control and its hideous consequences,” ACC Jacques added. “We’ve got to stand up and fight where we see hate, prejudice and discrimination, whether that’s officially as a police officer, going about our duty or whether that’s just us as decent human beings in our day-to-day lives.”
Among the speakers today was Zakariya Anwar, representing the Lancashire Council of Mosques, who spoke about the importance of commemorating not only the Holcaust “but also the genocides that happened before and after WWII such as the extermination of the native Americans, the Syrians, Palestinians, Nigerians,…”
“Remembering is not enough,” said Anwar, because, as he explains, genocide is something that is still happening today. “It’s important to remember everyone that has passed away in what I call the Human Holocaust; the idea that the Holocaust is not just a single event that happened in the past but a global event that has happened throughout human history.”
Anwar went on to remind the audience that, “right now, as we speak, there are people that are being killed for who they are or where they come from.”
“Hatred can tear the fabric of society,” said Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, talking about the hatred suffered by the disabled. “Hatred and intolerance pervade our daily lives. At core, this sheds light on the social structures that influence our day-to-day lives. There are many reasons why hatred and intolerance should have no place in a pluralistic, enlightened society. But peace and understanding are a universal aspiration, a desire to seek understanding should inspire us, it should push us to engage with the social fractures that threaten our potential to become a closer, kinder society.” He added.
Seb Smith, a teacher working with the local Roma community, in turn spoke about the often forgotten fate of the Romani people during the war. He compared the hate speech the Romani are subjected to in their daily lives to the hatred the Jews received during the war, often compared to filth and greedy people.
ACC Jacques closed the ceremony with a message of hope, “whilst I get angry [thinking and reflecting on hatred], I’m also full of hope because I know the world is full of good people.”
Hoping today has inspired everyone to go out and do some good, ACC Jacques remembers that “you don’t have to be a police officer to do some good, there are lots of good people here that go out there.”
Surya Jonckheere: Freelance journalist, Tuesday 27 Janurary 2015
Did you attend any of the Holocaust Memorial Day events in Preston? Let us know in the comments below.