Good Morning. Tomorrow, 27th January, it will be the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army. Death marches continued and thousands of the persecuted who were not gassed or shot died in typhoid epidemics, but it was the beginning of the end of the Sho’ah, the Holocaust.
This milestone moment that marked the first glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkness, was adopted in 2000 by the British government as the date for observing National Holocaust Memorial Day.
Despite earnest protestations of ‘never again’, shockingly, we all know that during the past 75 years, there have been subsequent genocides: Biafra, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur – each place-name a watchword for hate-fuelled mass murder.
The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration is ‘stand together’ https://www.hmd.org.uk/what-is-holocaust-memorial-day/this-years-theme/. Genocide remains a present reality. We are invited to stand together to assist those have been persecuted, to stand together in resistance against the persecutors, and to speak out against persecution and challenge hostile cultures that victimise people. As we do so, let us think in particular of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar and the Uighur Muslims of China.
This year when we also mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Bosnian atrocity, we are also invited to stand together with the memory of all those who are victims of genocide, to stand together to support those in need and to stand together against rising division and hate.
And so, let us also pledge to stand with one another. In the past three years, this country has been riven apart by the divisive Brexit debate. In the past three years, the ugly forces of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have made people whose families, parents and grandparents came here as refugees from persecution, including from the Holocaust, feel unsafe and fearful. As a new decade begins, let us vow to stand together and do what we can to reach out to one another and to forge bonds of friendship and mutual respect.
Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah
Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue