Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2019

Do you feel safe when you are in your home? Most of us do. It's a place of comfort, it's wherever your things are, it's familiar, and people you know are around you. But what would it feel like if there was a knock on your door, hostile people jostled you, and you were forcibly removed, you were shoved into the back of a truck and not told where they were taking you, or what they were going to do to you?

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and it's an opportunity to reflect on what happens when individuals, families and individuals are persecuted or suffer the threat of genocide. An opportunity to think about the continuing difficulties survivors face as they try to find and build new homes when the genocide is over.

Today, we remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

The Holocaust of the Nazi concentration camps was a terrible and defining episode of the twentieth century, which undoubtedly changed the course of history. After the Holocaust, the international community adopted a legal definition of the crime of ‘genocide’. They wanted to make sure that never again would the crimes of the Holocaust be allowed to happen.

The Nazis established camps where they imprisoned the victims of their hatred. The first concentration camp was established at Dachau on 23 March 1933. As the Nazis captured more territory through wartime invasions, the camp system was greatly expanded and used as a tool in the creation of a single-race state. The Nazis created thousands of camps – including forced labour, transit, and extermination camps throughout German-occupied territories.

Camp inmates were often subject to forced labour, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, starvation and cruel treatment, with a high death rate resulting from the poor conditions. After initial attempts to commit mass murder through shootings and mobile killing units proved ‘inefficient’, the Nazis extended the camp system to include six extermination camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Their purpose was to carry out genocide – using gas chambers.

Don't let it happen again. Never let them forget. All images © Wiener Library