How can life go on?
Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember the victims of the Nazis racial and political persecutions from over 70 years ago. It is also an opportunity to think about those that have been the victims of genocide since the end of the Second World War, perhaps most importantly it is an opportunity to reflect on how the world has responded to those victims and continues to respond now.
For many the Holocaust is not just a moment in history to be learnt alongside other historical events instead it can be seen as a pivotal moment when the progress of civilization stopped and instead took a backward step. It could also be argued that to overcome that backward step we should learn from that calamity and ensure that it does not happen again. Tragically the fact that HMD provides an opportunity to remember the genocides post the Holocaust tells us that so far the lessons that the Holocaust might provide have not been fully realized.
This year’s theme for HMD is ‘How can life go on?’ for the survivors of genocide that is a very difficult and real problem. Survivor guilt, depression, trauma, loneliness and a feeling of helplessness are all emotions that frequently affect those who survive and witness genocide and conflict. Today there are groups and associations, charities and therapists that are there to try and help those people and the work they do is to be congratulated as they try to help people piece their lives back together. However, more can and should be done for those who are affected by or the victims of these events.
So perhaps the theme of ‘How can life go on?’ should apply to the rest of us – those of us not directly affected by genocide. How can we change, act, shout out about these events and ensure that life goes on without genocide being carried out again?
For the last 70 years each successive global generation has failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and to ensure ‘Never again’ and maybe it is time to give up and accept that human being enjoy killing one another for invented reasons of hate. Or, maybe through education and a commitment to ensure that the truth of the past is learnt by as many as possible it is possible that one of our societies will eventually produce the generation and the people that will say no – this time we will not let it happen.
Just as the Holocaust survivors, Rwandan survivors, Bosnian survivors and more will stand up to talk about their experiences this week and continue to push their lives forward we as a history community must work together to educate those around of of the crimes of the past. In doing so, we can hope that we inform and empower the generation that finally learns to act in response to the lessons of the past, that changes society in a positive way and really stands up to ensure that genocide is consigned to history. When we do that the question ‘How can life go on?’ can be fully answered by us all – because we have moved civilization forward and learned the lessons of the past and acted on them!