I WAS very moved by the testimonies shared at the Holocaust Memorial events in Dublin and Newtownards, this year, both of which were packed to capacity.
It was encouraging to see so many determined not to let the horrors perpetrated during the Holocaust be forgotten or trivialised and this was demonstrated simply by their attendance. The talks and tributes left a deep impression and many dignitaries and representatives of the Jewish community were present. Whilst other genocides and victimised people groups were respectfully mentioned as well, it was the unique cruelty meted out to the Hebrew race which bore the real imprimatur of Nazism. When it is countered that not only Jews died in the ‘Shoah’, the Hebrew term preferred by most Jewish people which means ‘catastrophe’, it must be remembered that although not all victims of the Holocaust were Jews, but that all Jews were victims. It was an intense formula devised by intelligent and ‘enlightened’ Europeans to eradicate every last Jew in Europe.
From the ashes of the Shoah came the fledgling State of Israel, as the overwhelming consensus among survivors was that they were not safe or welcome in Europe and indeed most countries of the world would not accept them, and so they turned to Zion, the ancient Homeland of the Hebrew patriarchs which they called the Promised Land. During the pogroms and persecutions of pre-war Europe, such as in Poland, the anti-Semitic slurs and graffiti called for the Jews to “go back to Palestine”. Seventy years later the same anti-Jewish antipathy still lurks, with modern political slurs and protests stating, “Jews, get out of Palestine”. Why this irrational hatred of the Jew? The grotesque depictions and cartoons, such as in a British newspaper last week, still continue.
One lady stuck out from all the others represented at these events, and that was Inge Radford, who was a child survivor from Vienna who ended up in Millisle, Co Down. She lit a candle of remembrance with her two young grandsons, recalling how one of her brothers, who was murdered by the Nazis, was just the age of the elder grandson, and it was a most moving moment. To honour the memory of those who lost their lives and to pay tribute to those who survived and are still among us today it is vital that we continue to organise these events and continue to remember.