Holocaust Memorial Day Assembly 2024: Reflecting on Fragile Freedoms

Head of Science, Mr Ian Kirtland led the Memorial Assembly in the Senior School last week.

‘As we approach Holocaust Memorial Day 2024, our thoughts turn to the profound impact of historical tragedies like the Holocaust, Nazi persecution, and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

‘This year’s theme, “The Fragility of Freedom,” prompts contemplation on the stark realities captured in an image of Auschwitz/ Birkenau, Southern Poland, the largest Nazi extermination camp.

‘Defined as the deliberate destruction of a specific group based on identifiable characteristics, genocide’s most infamous manifestation was the Holocaust, claiming six million Jewish lives during World War II.

‘While Jewish and Roma communities were primary targets, Nazis persecuted various groups—disabled individuals, LGBTQ+, black people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, non-Jewish Poles, trade unionists—impacting millions.

‘Post-Nazi Holocaust, genocides have unfolded globally, from Cambodia to Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

‘Understanding the clear stages of genocide, from discrimination to denial, becomes crucial. Recognition of these stages empowers us to prevent these atrocities.

‘Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poignant poem serves as a stark reminder that indifference in the face of oppression ultimately threatens everyone’s freedom.

‘This challenging poem was written by Pastor Martin Niemöller who initially was an antisemitic Nazi supporter:

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 unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

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.

‘As we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day 2024, the presentation challenges us to appreciate our freedoms and commit to preventing the recurrence of such atrocities. Let it be a call to action against the subtle erosion of freedoms and a pledge to never take them for granted.’

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