Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 ‘Don’t Stand By’


Today, the 27th January, marks Holocaust Memorial Day and the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. The day provides us all with an opportunity to remember the millions who were killed in and affected by the Holocaust and other genocides.

IMG_2053This week, I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons. The Book honours the memory of all those who perished during the Holocaust as well as the extraordinary individuals who survived the horror of the camps and now work tirelessly to educate younger people.

I was particularly inspired this week by the story of Irena Sendler, who was a social worker in Warsaw. When the Warsaw Ghetto was created in 1940, Irena began smuggling in food, medicine and clothing. As conditions deteriorated in 1941, she began to smuggle people out of the ghetto, finding hiding places for them and disguising their identities.

In 1943, Irena was arrested, severely tortured and sentenced to death for her underground activities. Her release was secured by the Polish underground bribing a German official. Undeterred, she resumed her work and, in total, helped to save the lives of over 2,500 children.

Stories and individuals like this need to be remembered. The Holocaust Educational Trust perform an important role in their work with young people, educating them about the Holocaust and exploring the important lessons to be learned from one of the worst and callous moments in human history. The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘Don’t Stand By’.

As the decades pass since the Holocaust, there are fewer people who can bear personal witness to the horrors of what happened. But the Holocaust must never become simply regarded as something for history. Its lessons are still there to this day. The dangers of racism and prejudice are still with us and attempted genocides have continued to take place in different parts of the world since 1945. That is why the theme of this year’s HMD is ‘Don’t Stand By’. Rightly so. We must never forget and we must never look the other way.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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