Holocaust survivor’s politics of hate warning
THE RISE of nationalism across the world is a cause for great concern, Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental told an audience at the Kennedy Summer School at St Michael’s Theatre.
Peter Cassells, Director of the Edward M Kennedy Institute at Maynooth University, welcomed Tomi and Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al- Qadri to New Ross on Thursday night, saying: ‘It’s one of the great examples to us all how you embraced each other and how you have become good friends.’
A harrowing and illuminating documenatry about Tomi’s life called ‘Condemned to Remember’ was shown, depicting the horror Nazism reaped on Jewish families, like Tomi’s, who lost 35 family members to Nazi violence during World War II. Gerry Greg, writer and director on A Love Divided, the film about the Fethard Boycott, was also in attendance.
Tomi said he returned to his home town in Slovakia in the documentary and visited the country from where Nazi’s took him as a child to Auschwitz and was horrified by the nationalistic fervour he found there. He said he felt it was very important for him to show in his documentary how history is repeating itself. He also visited Srebrenica to speak to victims of the ethic cleansing there.
‘Nobody wanted the Jews in 1939 and today we see people want to escape and nobody wants them either so I want to bring the attention of people as what is happening is so wrong.’
Dr Al- Qadri said wherever there is hatred and there is a distance between communities misunderstanding grows. He said only through communities engaging with one another and through real interaction can hatred and misunderstanding be eradicated. In the documentary Tomi celebrate his 80th birthday at a mosque. Dr Al- Qadri said his story resonated with the Muslims in attendance that day.
Mr Greg said the film ‘Condemned to Remember’ goes on general release in Ireland on November 3rd and will be shown at several cinemas, but also in numerous cinemas across the country for students, where Tomi will give talks. Mr Greg said in ‘Condemned to Remember’ the crew recorded a moment of fraternity and unity across religions. ‘It’s about the common bonds of humanity.’
Dr Al- Qadri expressed concern that society has not learned from its past mistakes and that today Muslims are being targeted, whereas 70 years ago Jews were. ‘Education is the key to it. People are not born with hatred. The hatred comes afterwards,’ Tomi said.
Former Fianna Fail senator Jim Walsh said: ‘Your message contrasts sharply with the opening speaker (Katherine Zappone) tonight.’
He asked Dr Al- Qadri’s opinion on the effect the growing number of Saudi state funded mosques across the world are having on Mulims.
Dr Al- Qadri expressed concern about Saudi Arabia’s version of Islam, which he said is not necessarily terroristic but makes for very dogmatic and isolated followers. He said it can be a stepping stone towards radicalisation.
As the night drew to a close at around 10.45 p.m. Tomi and Dr Al- Qadri received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Lucy Nolan, Amy Fleming, Niall Breslin, Leah Ryan and Laura Doyle.
Seamus O’Neill and Jim Walsh at the launch of the JFK archive.