This week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.
Friday 27th January will mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.
In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘How can life go on?’
After signing the Book of Commitment, I attended the debate on Holocaust Memorial Day.
I remember the first time I really became aware of what it means. In 1973 I was in my third year at secondary school. For my history project I chose the rise of fascism in Europe.
At the time my mother worked for an economics professor at the local university. On hearing of my chosen subject he explained to my mum that he was a survivor of the Holocaust and said he would be happy to discuss his experience with me.
I went into his study to meet David Dinaur, a gaunt erudite man in his late 50s. He began by showing me the numbers they tattooed on his arm in the concentration camp. We chatted for many hours then and on future occasions. I was privileged to learn first hand how he came to be detained and the horrors he had to endure.
It seemed so far removed from the comfort of his Edwardian sitting room. Another world, hard to believe it ever happened. Yet happen it did.
Since then I have argued throughout my life of the need to never forget what happened - and to be aware how easily millions of people were seduced into condoning genocide against their fellow human beings.
Holocaust Memorial Day provides a focus for remembrance of the mass killings of six million Jewish people and as many again who faces did not fit the Nazi paradigm because they were communists, disabled, gay or Romany.
It also is a reminder of the need to give no quarter to anti-semitism or other racist attitudes which underpinned the Holocaust.
Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Edinburgh East and across the country to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust. As the Holocaust moves from living history, to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors. I would encourage my constituents to show their support for such an important day.