'Keep the memory alive': Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

By Simon Barrow
January 27, 2015

Events are taking place around the British and Irish isles to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday 27 January 2015. The theme for this year is 'Keep the memory alive'.

Seventy commemorative candles designed by Anish Kapoor are being lit in every part of the country, to represent the 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Earlier this week, Channel 4 television showed a remarkable documentary entitled 'Night Will Fall' about the story of those who filmed the terrible scenes in the Nazi death camps for a movie by Sidney Bernstein (with assistance from Alfred Hitchcock) which was not completed or shown immediately after the war, due to the sensitivity of the material.

It contains some of the most graphic and horrific documentary evidence of the crimes committed, and is a difficult to watch as it is important. It also features filmmaker Branko Lustin, a producer who filmed in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and who gave his account of what it was like to film inside the camps. "I had peered into hell... it is hard to describe," he said.

'Night Will Fall', which lasts 80 minutes, has been screened in over 15 countries in the run up to Holocaust Memorial Day, and will be available online for another 27 days, as well as on catch-up TV provider services.

Meanwhile, the HMD website contains a good overview article on 'The Holocaust and the Genocides' (plural) which sets out the horror that afflicted many millions under the Nazis, and other atrocities, including the Armenian Genocide, which is still not officially recognised by Turkey, Israel and others.

In fact the term ‘genocide’ was first used in 1933, in a paper presented to the League of Nations by the Polish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin. He devised the concept in response to the atrocities perpetrated against the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923.

On 11 December 1946 the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved that genocide was a crime under international law. This was approved and ratified as a Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on 9 December 1948.

The Convention defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- killing members of the group
- causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
- deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
- imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
- forcibly transferring children of the group to another group".

Gregory H Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, has developed a typology of the Eight Stages of genocide which explains the different components that lead to genocidal outcomes.

References and resources:

* 'Night Will Fall' (C4): http://www.channel4.com/programmes/holocaust-night-will-fall/on-demand/5... (Deemed unsuitable for younger viewers)

* Viewers stunned by ‘harrowing and shocking’ Channel 4 documentary (Metro, with a quote from me): http://metro.co.uk/2015/01/24/viewers-stunned-by-harrowing-and-shocking-...

* Holocaust Memorial Day site: http://hmd.org.uk/

* The Eight Stages of Genocide: http://hmd.org.uk/page/holocaust-genocides

* More on HMD from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/hmd

* 'From 1915 to 2015: the challenge of the Armenian Genocide centenary', by Dr Harry Hagopian, Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21272


© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

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