Friday, 27 January, 2006
'Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.'
 
Talmud
 

During the years of the Holocaust everyone had to make moral choices. Some people became perpetrators, others were bystanders. A small minority chose to help the persecuted – these are the rescuers and helpers. This was an extraordinary selfless choice. It meant risking not only their own lives but the lives of their own family and children. Many paid with their lives. None succeeded in halting the Holocaust but many Jews were enabled to survive as a result of their efforts. Each chose to defy the power of the Nazis and their collaborators – mostly single-handedly. Mostly we think of them as non-Jews who helped Jews but we should not overlook the many acts of kindness and support between persecuted Jews as well. That choice made a huge difference to many individual lives. More importantly they showed the power of the individual and provided hope in otherwise hopeless circumstances by demonstrating the importance of moral courage in action.

Individuals who make moral choices and act upon them can and do make a difference. They demonstrate that those who actively oppose prejudice, racism, persecution and murder can make a difference. Making such moral choices is challenging for individuals and many were fearful but persevered in spite of their fears. Their example shows that learning to use one’s voice to enhance positive human values turns good intentions into real actions. It is about making the choices to do what is right rather than what is expedient. It sets out to dispel the argument, ‘I am only one person, what can I do?’, and shows that one person can achieve a great deal, however modest their actions might initially appear.
 
 
 
Gwyneth Lewis, National Poet of Wales, composed a pledge for the national commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day 2006.  School children from across Wales took this pledge in line with the 2006 Theme: One person can make a difference.
 
The fight for justice starts and ends with me.
Truth is the sound of what I may say.
I can only be well when others are free
And right has a price I’m prepared to pay.
 
I refuse to be afraid
Of force or hatred.
I will pull their lies like weeds,
Plant gardens of more generous seeds.
 
If I turn my back and walk away
Who’ll ask for others what I want for me?
I can only be well when others are free
And right has a price I’m prepared to pay.
 
© Gwyneth Lewis