Photo: Odd Andersen/TT

Photo: Odd Andersen/TT

Telling for the future

January 27 is the day the world recognizes as Holocaust Memorial Day.  This year the day also marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was a day when we were painfully reminded of the atrocities committed during World War II. The Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén gave a moving speech at Raoul Wallenberg Square in Stockholm, where he spoke about the horrors of the Holocaust and stated that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. HRH Crown Princess Victoria visited Auschwitz-Birkenau together with other dignitaries from 40 different countries. Crown Princess Victoria travelled together with a survivor from Auschwitz.
(The Prime Minister’s speech can be found on this link)

In London, survivors of the Holocaust gathered for the Holocaust Memorial Day in Central Hall, Westminster. They were joined by THR The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the British Prime Minister David Cameron. It was a most dignified and moving ceremony in remembrance of the 6 million Jews murdered, but also in remembrance of the Roma, political prisoners, homosexuals, physically or mentally handicapped and members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Prince of Wales spoke of unparalleled human tragedy and of an “act of evil unique in history”.

It is terribly frightening to think of the unimaginable horrors that became reality during World War II and it is equally frightening that horror can strike again.  Unfortunately fewer and fewer survivors are there to tell their powerful stories.

In the past week I read Sarah Helm’s book “If this is a woman. Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler’s concentration camp for women.” It is a most chilling account of what women prisoners faced in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Helm has managed to unearth a vast amount of testimonies from archives, but also from survivors. She tells the compelling story of the many brave women and explains how easily and quickly the unthinkable horror evolved in the camp. It is a book that I will never ever forget reading.

Last week professor Bengt Jangfeldt, author of the book “The Hero of Budapest: The Triumph and Tragedy of Raoul Wallenberg”, gave a moving talk on Wallenberg at the Reform Club in London. Once again the tremendous courage of Wallenberg – the Swedish businessman who, at immense personal risk, rescued many of Budapest’s Jews from the Holocaust - was highlighted. It is a terrible tragedy that Wallenberg disappeared into the Soviet prison system.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia and last year it was the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. Edmund Burke put it eloquently when he said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. That is why we must always rise to the occasion and keep telling and sharing the stories of survivors so that future generations will not forget what happened. Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us and keep on telling for the future.

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