I was deeply moved this week by the images of Muslim and Jewish leaders visiting the former Nazi German death camp, Auschwitz, together to share Jewish and Islamic prayers of commemoration, days before the 75th anniversary of the site’s liberation. To be among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Islamic and Jewish communities, they said, was both a ‘sacred duty’ and a ‘profound honour’.
The Holocaust is a horrifyingly dark chapter in our history, an event that jeopardised the very bedrock of our civilisation. At the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, it is estimated over a million innocent people were killed due to the twisted, hateful ideology of the Nazis. Those that have visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, as I have, are often lost for words. You cannot help but feel numbness and sorrow.
In total over six million Jewish people were senselessly murdered as well as millions of others whose background, abilities or beliefs did not fit with the Nazi ideology; Poles, Serbs, Romani, LGBT+, and people living with disabilities and health conditions to name a few.
While today marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we must also face the fact that Britain, like its neighbours, is experiencing an increase in far-right extremism too. Therefore, it is also our ‘sacred duty’ to remember this repugnant massacre and other genocides that have threatened our global society.
Shocking statistics revealed by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust last year show 2.6 million British people think the Holocaust is a myth, and almost two-thirds of the British public either grossly underestimate, or do not know how many died. Because the scale of devastation is so difficult to grasp, we must never forget it.
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