Rachael Wass

Holocaust Memorial Day 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day occurs every year on the date of the liberation of the concentration camps in Poland on the 27th January 1945. The day aims to bring humanity together so that society can reflect on past mistakes, learn from them and progress into a community with one collective race of compassionate humans in the hope of creating a better future.

In anticipation for 2018’s date, Liverpool’s Guild of Students was lucky enough to have a visit from Holocaust survivor Joanna Millan (born Bela Rosenthal), where the many who turned up were fortunate to listen to her own, personal story concerning the Nazi regime, her experiences of concentration camps and life after liberation.

Bela Rosenthal was born in 1942 Berlin and was taken into the Theresienstadt concentration camp just outside of Prague in 1943 along with her mother. After her mother died of tuberculosis, Bela was left an orphan and began to form a family in the horrific camp with five other children of a similar age. When the camp was liberated in 1945, Bela was flown to England where she was eventually adopted by a Jewish family in London. Here, Bela’s name was changed to the ‘less-German’ name Joanna and she continued to face post-war anti-Semitism and discrimination both at school and in the streets.

Although Joanna suffered greatly during her time in the concentration camps with illness, disease and hunger whilst also being constantly surrounded by death, her life was able to return to some form of normality in a progressed society many years after the war. However, not all could be as lucky as Joanna and the other 900,000 survivors.

Across the span of six years during World War II, 17 million human beings were victims of the Holocaust, with 6 million of them belonging to the Jewish faith. People were persecuted, tortured and killed for who they are; for the families that they were born into; for matters that cause no harm to anyone. In World War II, people were not only targeted because of their faith but because of their skin colour, sexuality, level of ability and health. It was the Nazi ideal to create a pure Aryan race and to “make Germany great again”: a phrase that is almost an all too familiar one in the twenty first-century.

For a society in which we live today, it seems impossible that global governmental organisations would be capable of endorsing this level of segregation as they did in the 1940s. Indeed, those living in the UK in the twenty first-century are lucky enough to not fear any risk of genocide, yet there are people across the globe who live in fear of death and persecution through no reason of their own. Since World War II there have been numerous genocides across the world including ones in places such as Cambodia, Rwanda and Indonesia where millions of innocent people were killed.

In our own time however, there is on one side of the world, a currently active genocide mission in North Korea, where since the mid-1990s, millions of people have died from starvation and prison camps as well as alleged concentration camps. On the other side of the world, President Trump’s obnoxious ignorance and obsession with race has brought a frightening tension to America’s surface and to those who live there. 2017 showed problematic presences in America when a wave of white supremacism and neo-Nazism became an extremely outdated, unnecessary and easily prevented incident.

Here in 2018, people are still being divided from the rest of society for things that should not matter: for their race, culture, faith, sexuality and disabilities.

The fear of a relapse of the discrimination that was exhibited in World War II is very real, and knowledge of how it can be prevented should in turn prevent future hypothetical genocides across the world.

“Genocide is does not just take place on its own, it is a steady process which can begin if discrimination and hatred are not checked and prevented.”

-(Holocaust Memorial Day Trust).

Small actions of hate and segregation play key roles in building tensions in society, yet the remainder of its presence proves how not nearly enough people have the courage to react to injustices and call them out.

In a time where the future of our world is so fragile and unpredictable, it is important to remember that people should stand together as a Human Race to call out social injustices concerning any form of discrimination so that humanity becomes more humane.

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

– Martin Niemoller

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