Holo­caust Day re­minds us of dark forces

Derby Telegraph - - LETTERS -

ATROC­I­TIES and mind­less slaugh­ter aris­ing from con­flicts and in­ter­com­mu­nal ten­sions have been a re­cur­rent scar on the story of hu­mankind. But in the ear­lier part of the 20th cen­tury our fore­bears thought that at least in Europe such prim­i­tive trib­al­ism had been swept away by the Sci­en­tific Rev­o­lu­tion, the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, and the En­light­en­ment.

This com­pla­cent be­lief was shat­tered by the rev­e­la­tion of the Nazi Holo­caust. In one of the world’s sci­en­tif­i­cally, tech­no­log­i­cally, and cul­tur­ally most ad­vanced coun­tries a ruth­less and sys­tem­atic pro­gramme was un­der­taken to ex­ter­mi­nate whole sec­tors of the pop­u­la­tion.

This ac­counted for six mil­lion peo­ple of Jew­ish de­scent and hun­dreds of thou­sands of Roma and Gypsy peo­ple, and mem­bers of other de­spised groups such as the dis­abled, the gay com­mu­nity, and Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses.

Sci­en­tific ra­tio­nal­ity had not pro­vided a de­fence against bar­barism, in­stead it had en­abled evil to be­come more ef­fi­cient with a mer­ci­less bu­reau­cracy in­dus­tri­al­is­ing mur­der.

The Nazi Holo­caust pro­vides a dread­ful warn­ing against al­low­ing a dripfeed of whis­pered ha­tred to go unchecked and un­chal­lenged for cen­turies, and alerts us that ter­ri­ble things can hap­pen in times of so­cial stress when sto­ries de­signed to di­vide com­mu­ni­ties have been al­lowed to take root. It warns us this can hap­pen any­where.

What would the Bud­dha say about the per­se­cu­tion of the Ro­hingya by mem­bers of the sup­pos­edly Bud­dhist com­mu­nity in Myan­mar? But such things have hap­pened here as well: in 1190 the en­tire Jew­ish com­mu­nity in York was mas­sa­cred – in “Chris­ten­dom.”

March 19 next year marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the Jal­lian­wala Bagh mas­sacre in Am­rit­sar by British troops un­der the com­mand of Colonel Dyer. This episode and, more par­tic­u­larly, the dis­grace­ful sup­port ac­corded to him for his ac­tion, served to de­stroy the moral au­thor­ity of British rule in In­dia. In Derby we are priv­i­leged to house the Sikh Na­tional Holo­caust Mu­seum.

The Sikh com­mu­nity in Derby is one of many com­mu­ni­ties with im­mi­grant or refugee roots which con­trib­ute to the strength, re­silience, and di­ver­sity of our city. The city coun­cil is to be con­grat­u­lated for giv­ing of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion to the Ar­me­nian geno­cide and the Ukrainian Holodomor as two 20th cen­tury geno­cides pre­dat­ing the Holo­caust.

Dur­ing the week sur­round­ing Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day many of our refugee com­mu­ni­ties share their sto­ries and cel­e­brate their de­fi­ant sur­vival in song and dance. It is par­tic­u­larly strik­ing that, hav­ing been given refuge after the hor­rors of Sre­brenica, the Bos­nian com­mu­nity now ex­tends its gen­er­ous hospi­tal­ity to new friends. It is only by shar­ing sto­ries and seek­ing mu­tual un­der­stand­ing that the hu­man fam­ily can com­bat those forces which drive divi­sion and ha­tred.

Derby’s HMD or­gan­is­ing group has a web­site, der­by­holo­caust­memo­ri­al­day.org, which ex­plains the pro­gramme and how to get tick­ets for the spe­cial evening at Quad on Jan­uary 28.

Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Pow­ers, Church Road, Quarn­don

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