Observing Holocaust Memorial Day
I am what is commonly referred to as a cultural Jew; I am neither religious nor observant, but Jewish I am through and through. Although the Holocaust happened long before I was born, its impact is still felt in every muscle, bone, and sinew of my body. It’s why I will always stand up and be counted, whatever the consequences.
Holocaust Memorial Day is held every year on 27 January, which marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. This year I will be, as always, taking the time to remember and honour those whose sacrifices have afforded me the freedom to live as I do today.
Here in the UK, we may not be experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust or the other genocides that are commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day, but the hatred and prejudice that fuelled these atrocities is still present in our society, and it is incumbent on every human being alive on this earth to stop it.
Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.Siddhartha Gautama Buddha
Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to pause and reflect, to bear witness to those who endured genocide and to honour the survivors. It’s an opportunity to learn from the past, to open our hearts to the extremes of discrimination and the pain, sorrow, and suffering it can cause, and to continue to hold our hearts open to play our part in creating a physically and psychologically safe world for everyone.
What concerns me the most at this point in our human history is how angry people are, how this anger has led to hatred, and how amplified all of this is on the big megaphone of social media. Although we all have the right to feel fear, hurt, and outrage by prejudice and discrimination, anger and its byproduct hatred are just not helping matters. The wise Siddhartha Gautama Buddha put it best: “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.“
Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us how important it is for those who have been discriminated against to tell their stories, to be listened to, to be heard, and to be understood, and for us all to translate what we’ve learned into real, practical action.
So my hope for this Holocaust Memorial Day, and for the future of humanity, is that we can all come together as one human race to create a just and fair world; one where we live harmoniously together, where we honour and respect each other, and we celebrate each other’s differences.
And if I ever find myself losing courage or strength in this fight of fights, I draw encouragement and inspiration from the memory of my dear friend and Holocaust Refugee, Rita Rosenbaum (19 February 1927 to 18 October 2019), whose light will always shine in my heart.
This blog post was written by Sandi Wassmer, CEO, Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion. It was originally posted on 26 January 2022 and revised in July 2022.