The Scottish National Event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 took place in Falkirk Town Hall on Wednesday 27 January.
Inspired by the theme for 2016, Don’t stand by, the event was attended by Holocaust survivors and 600 guests, to honour the memory of those who suffered and perished under Nazi persecution or during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Speakers included Professor Mukesh Kapila who was influential in bringing the situation in Darfur to worldwide attention and Inge Auerbacher, a survivor of the Terezin concentration camp.
For the first time, the event featured a display of drawings by child survivors of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, which were used as evidence in the International Criminal Court.
Mukesh Kapila said ‘Remembering the Holocaust and other genocides such as Rwanda and Darfur is vital because we know that if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Times change and so each generation has to revisit the past to make it relevant to the present.’
Mukesh continued ‘During my visit, I want to learn what the people of Scotland understand to be the true significance of Holocaust remembrance at a time when the world is in so much turmoil from strife and intolerance with millions forced to flee their homes and atrocities reported from somewhere every day. I want to challenge the Scots not to be careless with what they have, and not to be complacent in the face of unfairness and injustice. We know to our collective cost what can happen when good people stand by because they can’t be bothered to stand up.’
Inga Auerbacher said ‘We must speak out against evil and injustice. Let us build bridges of understanding and love to join mankind in every land. My hope, my wish, and prayer is for every child to grow up in peace without hunger and prejudice.’
Director of Interfaith Scotland, Dr Maureen Sier, said ‘it is an honour to have been involved in helping Scotland to remember the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. It has deep personal implications for my family as my husband’s grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz Birkenau by the Nazis and over the years I have been privileged to hear the stories of survival and courage from those who have faced the unimaginable. I am proud of Scotland, really proud that we will not allow ourselves to forget and that Scotland is committed to working for a world free of such atrocities.’
Falkirk Council’s Provost Pat Reid said: ‘It’s a real privilege to be invited to host the national event which will build on the success of our own local events in recent years. It’s a time to pause, reflect and remember the millions of people who have been directly or indirectly affected by discrimination and in the very worst cases, genocide.
‘But it is also a time to learn from the past and do our best to work together to prevent all forms of discrimination, and in doing so have a more tolerant society. This year’s theme ‘Don’t stand by’ puts the spotlight on those who have, at times, risked their lives to speak out about the horrors others chose to ignore.
‘Silence is not an option, we all have the ability to speak out and put an end to discrimination, bullying and persecution.’