Reflection on Holocaust Memorial Day 2024

27 Jan 2024

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

I want to mark down a few of my thoughts, but in doing so I risk a disservice to a monumental human event; an indelible stain on our species.

As survivors and witnesses diminish with time, I worry that referring simply to ‘The Holocaust’ risks undermining its severity, so I’ll expand here on what it was: Industrial Genocide – the extermination of groups of people seen as “less worthy” than their oppressors, by such means as to remove all dignity, empathy and emotion. The mechanism of extermination was so inhumanely engineered that its executors sanity was spared burden – this was not murder, this was a logical solution to a problem. These were not frightened children, they were Jews.

For those 6,000,000 victims of the holocaust: Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, disabled and black people, political opponents, the horror of the Holocaust was fully realised at concentration camps such as Auschwitz, but Auschwitz was only ‘The Final Solution’ - the terminal point on a decades-long scale of dehumanisation which had begun with ignorance, fear and divisive rhetoric. The type of rhetoric we continue to hear on a daily basis.

There is also a risk I fear, that in contemplating The Holocaust in its sheer scale, we neglect the individual human tragedy. A social media account connected to the Auschwitz Memorial does an excellent job of remembering individual victims daily. I also thank Italian author Primo Levi who remained an emotional prisoner of Auschwitz until his sudden death, many years after he was physically liberated. His book ‘The Drowned and the Saved’ makes for depressing, but crucial reading.

In 2017 and 2019 respectively, I had the privilege (I struggle to find an appropriate synonym – the experiences were sobering to my very core, yet gratefully received) to visit Dachau and Sachsenhausen camps. 

Their legacies must not be forgotten.