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Holocaust Memorial Day Today

January 27, 2008

Today is 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. The Holocaust Memorial Trust have produced a short visual piece in the UK which urges us to

remember, reflect, react

to ensure that these kinds of things never happen again. But of course they do and they have; Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechyna, Darfur and on and on. Even here, in the so-called sophisticated, West we in Northern Ireland have conducted a 40 year terror campaign against one another on the basis of ethnic, political and religious identity.

I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau a few years ago in the company of some of the perpetrators of violence in our society. Just prior to that we took a group of paramilitary leaders to visit Munich and Dachau Labour Camp. All this to help us reflect on the long term impact on a community of sectarian or ethnic or racist violence.

Remember, reflect, react we are told.

20 years ago, in 1988 I was in the early months of my first job after university, having moved north to Belfast from the Republic of Ireland. I can remember it in great detail. It is vivid and real to me because it was not so long ago.

I read a comment piece in today’s Irish Times which pulled me up short. It reminded me that just 20 years before I was born, the death factory at Auschwitz-Birkenau was reaching peak production, achieving murder levels of 20,000 people a day, stockpiling the shoes, suitcases, hair brushes and artificial limbs which today form those grotesque displays in Auschwitz 1.

The writer John Fleming urges us to remember,

"Lest – despite Rwanda, the Balkans, the Congo, Chechnya and far too many other occasions of human horror – we forget that people like you and me are capable of murdering people like you and me."

Remember, Reflect, React.

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