Saturday, 27 January, 2007

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2007 encouraged us to look at what we learn from the Holocaust about the consequences of exclusion based on people’s difference from us.  It highlighted the experiences of a variety of groups under the Nazis.  It also explored the opportunities this history gives us to consider how we can create a society based on respect for difference.  The theme involves several aspects: 
History: The theme explored how exclusionary policy towards the Jews, Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), disabled people, lesbian and gay people, and black people and other groups developed under the Nazis.  It attempted to understand the consequences of the Nazi theories of racial purity within what has become known as the Racial State.  It identified how populist ideology led to different patterns of persecution, in which different institutions or professional classes within military and civil society participated – including health, police and the judiciary. In particular, it questioned how ordinary bystanders reacted to the increasingly divisive legislation. 
Reflection: The theme questioned what might have been done in the past to overcome the exclusion experienced by victimised groups – and to recognise the particularity of their experience.  It reflected on the consequences for a number of individuals and groups caught up as victims of exclusion, and on what might have been done differently to avoid or alleviate the suffering they experienced.  It also looked at the way people can face discrimination or exclusion because they are identified as belonging to a targeted group.  
Action: This theme encouraged us to think about the lives of people marginalised and excluded in the Holocaust, in subsequent genocides and today, and what might be done to celebrate difference and create a culture of respect.  It identified that victims are never in the best position to defend their own victimisation and that the champions of change are those who are prepared to widen their ‘universe of moral obligation’ and consider the lives of others as a part of their own life.  The theme explored how individuals and communities might contribute to this in a meaningful and practical way.