Honouring Holocaust survivors

26 November 2010

Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to honour the survivors and raise awareness says Victoria Neale, PCS Proud rep for Yorkshire and Humberside

Each year on 27 January the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), the international day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.

The date was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the liberation of the largest Nazi killing camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. It is an opportunity to remember that the victims of the holocaust include Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, disabled children and adults, black Germans, Jehovah’s Witnesses and trade unionists, as well as those affected by other genocides. Untold stories In 2011, the theme for HMD is ‘untold stories’, in recognition of the millions of stories we are never going to know of individuals, communities and towns. In 2009 I was teaching the ‘countering the far right course’ at PCS Leeds when I heard the untold story of a holocaust survivor from his son who described in tears how his father had walked from Russia to the UK to escape Nazi persecution.

HMD provides us with an opportunity to honour the survivors but it is also a chance to look at our own behaviours in the workplace.

It may seem impossible for us as union members to do something to challenge atrocities which are being carried out across the world, however there are actions that we can all take which will make a difference.

Anne Frank wrote in her diary: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Everyone can make the choice to challenge exclusion where we see it happening – for example we can choose to stop using language which dehumanises others and we can stop our friends, family and colleagues from dehumanising and excluding others.

When organising events in our workplaces we can ensure we include as many people as possible.

You can challenge hatred by commemorating HMD and pledging to remember the victims of the Holocaust and later genocides. Denial is one of the eight stages of genocide and by remembering victims we challenge it.

How you can support the day

  • There is no right or wrong way to commemorate the day, providing it is done with respect
  • Never use images or footage that could offend your audience
  • You can use HMD 2011 as a key date in the equalities calendar – there are also many dates throughout the year which can be an opportunity to do holocaust awareness work. Raising awareness can be as simple as a poster commemorating a certain date
  • It is more effective to approach the subject in small achievable steps than have one large objective
  • Use the 2011 theme ‘Untold Stories’ to give a focus to the event and to ensure you are part of a unified theme across the UK
  • Keep it relevant – HMD is about learning from the past and working in the present.
  • Look at contemporary issues of discrimination and prejudice in your workplace and explore how to challenge these
  • Ideas to consider include – art exhibitions, poster displays, reading group sessions, film showings, survivor testimony and peer training sessions
  • Give your audience something by which they can remember the event
  • HMD is an excellent opportunity for the different equality strands to work together on a commemorative event.

PCS is committed to commemorating HMD and can provide reps with training on holocaust awareness.

Learn more about Holocaust Memorial Day at hmd.org.uk

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