Lessons to learn from Holocaust Memorial Day

Laying flowers at the Holocaust Memorial outside the Town Hall (l to r) Chief Executive, Mark Carroll, Mayor Phil Glanville, Speaker, Cllr Michael Desmond, Deputy Lieutenant (the Queen’s representative) Stephen Howlett, CBE and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble.
Laying flowers at the Holocaust Memorial outside the Town Hall (l to r) Chief Executive, Mark Carroll, Mayor Phil Glanville, Speaker, Cllr Michael Desmond, Deputy Lieutenant (the Queen’s representative) Stephen Howlett, CBE and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble.

Hackney has the second-largest Jewish community in the UK, primarily Charedi, but with others from all communities, including a flourishing Progressive and Liberal Congregation in Stoke Newington, with a dynamic new Rabbi from Kansas, whose induction I attended.

Due to Covid, we were unable to hold the normal Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration at the Town Hall, but released a short video instead, in which community leaders offered condolences and committed to try to prevent such atrocities ever happening again in future.

I also released a short video showing a picture of my mothers’ long-lost family from Kolo, Poland, taken in November 1933. It’s haunting looking at the faces, wondering what happened to them. I’m sure it’s the same for many Jewish families, most of us were either directly or indirectly affected.

As civic leader in Hackney (Speaker), I lit a candle and laid flowers at a memorial outside the Town Hall, in front of Council leaders. One of the things I pointed out, unique about the Holocaust, was the industrial methods used to murder Jews following the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. Zyklon B was used to gas around 1.1 million victims at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek and other extermination camps.

Michael Desmond lighting a candle for Holocaust Memorial Day

The only way this could have been done on such an enormous scale, was by dehumanising victims over a long period of time, depicting them as vermin in nauseating newspapers like Der Sturmer, published by the virulent anti-Semite, Julius Streicher.

At school under the Nazis, children were taught the alphabet with grotesque antisemitic images next to each letter.

Since the Holocaust, there have, of course, been genocides in Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere.  We need to remember not just those subjected to evil acts of killing, but those around them, who allowed it to happen.

Each of us has a moral compass. As we nervously watch events in Ukraine and Russia, North Korea and China/Taiwan, we must accept we have a duty to speak out and ensure that evil and hatred do not tarnish this planet ever again.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, we think of the victims of an atrocity that scarred the world. My mothers family came from…

Posted by Michael Desmond on Wednesday, January 26, 2022

 

About the Author
Michael went to school in Colindale and Edgware, before moving to Clapton, Hackney, he is the second longest serving councillor on Hackney Council, was civic Mayor in 2013/14 and stood in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections for Labour in Faversham and Mid Kent.
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