On Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) we reflect on some of the past events at LJMU which have shaped our understanding of humanity’s worst crimes.
Today is about how we remember the millions of people murdered for ethnic and political purpose.
From Nazi concentration camps to Stalinist gulags, any attempt to bring home the horrors of genocide to our relatively peaceful times will inevitable fall short. But over the past decade The LJMU Roscoe Lectures have sought to broaden our understanding of the experiences of the Jews, the Rwandans, the Burmese and others and to consider the motives of their persecutors.
The words of survivors are the most powerful of all:
“A day like this brings into sharp focus these tragedies as a reminder for the need to learn from them and prevent future ones,” Philomene Uwamaliya, a Rwandan genocide survivor told a public lecture at LJMU in a 2008 Roscoe Lecture.
Trude Levi, who survived Nazi persecution in Hungary during the Second World War, recounted: “We were taken on a death march, back and forth across the river Elbe, Ten days through snow and, once, raw horsemeat and some uncooked rice to eat, teeth falling out, and anyone who couldn't stand shot by the SS.”
And Pascal Khoo Thwe, who escaped the Burmese repression of the 1980s, told an LJMU audience: “Words and time is never enough to describe fully the pains, the sorrow and the humiliation of the victims.”
The following year, a fascinating Roscoe Lecture by American journalist Anne Applebaum considered the parallels between Stalin’s Gulags and Hitler’s Concentration Camp.
Nature or conditioning?
Then in 2015, human rights activist Rebecca Tinsley delivered a thought-provoking Roscoe Lecture which delved into the human psyche, asking if genocide is part of our nature.
With almost 20 cases of defined genocide since 1900, defying the belief that they are infrequent and rare acts of madness, she said the factors leading to them included conformity, hatred, fear and greed. She also explained how hatred and fear during a catastrophic event can lead to genocide, outlining how the Great Depression in Germany was the catalyst for rise of the Nazi Party.
As we begin 2022, and with humanity rarely so polarised over race, politics, religion and ethics, these are lessons we all should carry with us.
To learn more, go to the Holocaust Remembrance Day's offical website.