Tuesday, 31 January, 2017

On Thursday 26 January Junior Ministers Megan Fearon and Alastair Ross hosted an event to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

The commemoration, held in the Market Place Theatre in Armagh, marked 72 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

The keynote speaker was Holocaust survivor Ms Mindu Hornick, who at the age of 13 was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau with her mother, sister and two younger brothers.

Speaking at the event, Junior Minister, Megan Fearon said: ‘On Holocaust Memorial Day we take the time to remember the millions of people who were so cruelly persecuted by the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

The scale of the atrocity can be difficult to comprehend. That there existed concentration and extermination camps which wiped out entire swathes of the population on an industrial scale is chilling, and yet it is a fact we must not forget.

Sadly, subsequent decades have seen further genocides take place, such as those in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and, in recent years, the Darfur region of Sudan. They all serve as a reminder such crimes against humanity can occur if we stand by and allow it.

The theme of this year’s commemoration, How can life go on?, is a powerful challenge. Mindu Hornick found the strength to keep going, and her spirit and determination to pass on the lessons of the past is an inspiration to us all.’

Speaking ahead of the ceremony Junior Minister Alastair Ross said: ‘Tomorrow, it will be seventy-two years since the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated and today’s commemoration lets us remember all of those who suffered and those who died as a result of the Holocaust. It also serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of resentment, hatred and exclusion. On Holocaust Memorial Day we honour the survivors of genocide and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.

The theme for this year’s commemoration, How can life go on?, challenges us all to think about what happens after genocide and what happens in people’s lives in the wake of such devastation. As we remember all those affected by the Holocaust and subsequent genocides we commit ourselves never to forget and to do what is right and proper in the face of tyranny. If we are to create a better, safer future we must learn the lessons from the past.’

The event included prayers in Hebrew and English, music and verse recital, and a Statement of Commitment delivered by a range of community representatives. There was also a formal screening of the Holocaust Memorial Day film for 2017 and a video about Holocaust survivor Walter Kammerling entitled Strangers Smiled At Me, which you can watch below:

Holocaust Memorial Day was initiated in 2000 to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and to raise awareness and understanding of the events of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The usual date of the commemoration, 27 January, was chosen as it was the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945.

The event was organised by The Executive Office in co-operation with an Advisory Group comprising members of the local Jewish community, the Council of Christians and Jews, and members of the LGB, ethnic minority and disabled communities, representing those who were persecuted during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Holocaust Memorial Day Trust provides ongoing support for the Northern Ireland Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations and supports local activity organisers through the Northern Ireland Regional Support Worker, Shirley Lennon. 

Other commemorative events were held in Dublin, as well as in England, Scotland and Wales.