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Survivors, liberation and rebuilding lives Holocaust memorial day 2005 Images are from Beth Shalom, the Holocaust Centre ‘There are 350,000 survivors of the Holocaust alive today... There are 350,000 experts who just want to be useful with the remainder of their lives. Please listen to the words and the echoes and the ghosts. And please teach this in your schools’. Steven Spielberg, Academy Award acceptance speech The 60th anniversary of the liberation of the extermination and concentration camps in Germany presents a great opportunity to show respect for the survivors of Nazi persecution and mass murder, and to listen to what they can tell us about the best and the worst of human behaviour. The Holocaust is usually taught as the mass genocide of almost six million Jews in Europe during World War II. But, more than five million others were also persecuted, tortured, tattooed and killed. Of the 11 million people killed during the Holocaust six million were Polish citizens. Of these • three million were Polish Jews • three million were Polish Christians and Catholics. Most of the remaining victims were from other countries including Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Holland, France and even Germany. These five million included innocent citizens - men women and children. The survivors and the families of these five million often feel overshadowed by the Jewish casualties. Nonetheless, these people need to be recognized and memorialized. Many of these died for their race or their beliefs. Many died helping their Jewish neighbours. They too deserve their place in history. The Nazis decided that it was a waste of time and money to support the handicapped. During Hitler's "cleansing program", thousands of people with various disabilities were deemed useless and simply put to death like dogs and cats "...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all...“ Elie Wiesel shown aged 15 Rev. Martin Niemöller said: ‘First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade union leaders, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade union leader. 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 out for me.’ The Roma Gypsies were chosen for total annihilation because of their race. They were persecuted and denied privileges in many European countries. The Nazis believed that both the Jews and Gypsies were racially inferior and therefore worthless. Like the Jews, the Gypsies were moved into special areas set up by the Nazis. Half a million Gypsies, almost the entire Eastern European Gypsy population, was wiped out during the Holocaust What is a survivor? • one who lives through affliction; • one who outlives another; • one that survives in spite of adversity; • a person who has been severely abused; Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize: ‘Ask any survivor and he will tell you, he who has not lived the event will never know it. And he who went through it will not reveal it, not really, not entirely. Between his memory and his reflection there is a wall and it cannot be pierced. ..only the survivor can bear witness, transmit a spark of the flame, tell a fragment of the tale, a reflection of the truth.’ The stories of survivors touch us. They tell us the worst and most depraved depths that humanity can sink to. They also show us the compassion and strength that human beings can demonstrate in times of extreme evil. ‘I think a lot of survivors feel very guilty about surviving. For the longest time I kept asking myself, "Why am I alive? Why is my father dead? Why did 6,000,000 die and I am alive?" And when I got older, I began to realize that maybe God chose me because whatever little I have to contribute to telling of this, I am able to do that now.’ a survivor Tamara Deuel, Holocaust survivor, said ‘Ihave been able to transfer the horror of the Holocaust in my art. Every individual who survived that other world, has a duty to leave documentation behind so that future generations will remember and will not forget.’ • Did the people of the world learn from the evil of the past? • Did we forget? • Did we turn our backs and let it happen again? • Could it happen again? • Could it happen here?
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