Written by Deputy Head Students Dilraaj K and Mazin E
The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ordinary people. Ordinary people were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust. For example, ordinary people were victims, witnesses, bystanders, and rescuers. Ordinary people have choices for their actions. Think about how ordinary people like us can play a more significant part in challenging prejudice and discrimination today. By speaking out against discrimination and antisemitism, we are staying true to our Barr Beacon values- ‘Never discriminate’ and have ‘Consideration for others and the environment.’
What was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust was the systematic murder of black people, homosexuals, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma & Sinti Gypsies by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War.
The Nazi’s programme of anti-Jewish persecution began as soon as Hitler came into power in 1933. This programme of targeted mass murder was a central part of the Nazis’ ideology to try and create a supreme ‘Aryan race’ and to destroy any ‘inferior races’.
At first, they used anti-Semitic laws to make life difficult for Jews to continue with their everyday lives. They outlawed marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans and removed all civil and political rights of the Jews. Furthermore, restrictions alongside brutal propaganda encouraged a culture of segregation and hostility. This process of victimisation was intended to isolate Jewish people from the wider population.
Why and how we remember?
On 27th January 2023, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Death Camp in 1945, we remembered the 11 million victims of the Holocaust.
A group of year 13 students were privileged to bear witness to the testimony of Holocaust survivor, Ruth Posner BEM, and took part in a webchat organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. Ruth Posner was a child at the time of the Holocaust and shared her experiences of how her family were evicted from their home in Warsaw, Poland, after the Germans had invaded and were moved to live in a Ghetto in Warsaw. She eventually escaped the Ghetto with her aunt and assumed a false identity and was hidden by a Catholic family. She was eventually arrested, not for being Jewish but for being a Polish-Catholic and, towards the end of the war, she was put on a train by the Germans with her aunt and transported to Essen in Germany where she hid on a farm until the end of the war.
Ruth’s message was one of hope that, even through the darkest of times, people can overcome adversity and it is the responsibility of ordinary people to speak out against prejudice and discrimination.
“Change isn’t happening fast enough for man. You must make it happen faster. When you see injustice happening, stand up!” Walter Kasel (survivor)
Links for further reading: