HMDT Blog: Reflections on refugee journeys and How can life go on?

This blog was written for HMDT by Charlotte Lee, who was an HMDT Youth Champion and member of the HMDT Youth Champion Board.

For those fleeing genocide or other conflicts, the notion that life is able to go on often rests largely on being able to make a journey to a safer place in order to begin to rebuild.

For many, this chance to find some semblance of safety in a new home brings with it opportunities to achieve great things. Consider the story of Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott MBE, who found refuge in Britain after being liberated from Theresienstadt, going on to become a champion weightlifter in the Olympics.

I have had the great privilege of speaking to a number of Holocaust survivors over recent years. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day this year, I volunteered at a local synagogue, where young people participated in workshops and heard speeches from Holocaust survivors. There is a particular poignancy in this year’s theme: How can life go on? - these survivors’ lives will continue to ‘go on’, generations from now, lived out in the re-telling of their stories by the young people who came to listen to them. However, many of these incredible people are only able to share their stories with us today because they were able to seek refuge from persecution all those years ago.

As well as reflecting on the historical importance of this year’s theme, it is also imperative that we consider the implications of what the theme can mean to us in the present day. We are fortunate in the UK that we are not at risk of genocide. However, genocide continues to occur, and is still ongoing in Darfur. Other instances of conflict and persecution are also widespread.

Conflicts across the world have led to a global refugee crisis, in which millions of people have been displaced. Over the past few days, many have taken to the streets to protest President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration, bringing the issue even further to the forefront of our media and collective conscience.

The sheer number of people currently displaced across the world is shocking, but we must not lose sight of the fact that behind each statistic are millions of individual people, individual stories which remain to be told, and individual lives which must also go on. I believe that ordinary people, as well as world leaders on the global stage, can and should play a part in speaking up for those who are making journeys to flee from conflict and begin a better life today.

It is my hope that we reflect on previous instances of suffering and persecution across the world, in order to respond to current events with humanity, learning lessons from history in order to craft a better world for future generations.

The HMDT blog highlights topics relevant to our work in Holocaust and genocide education and commemoration. We hear from a variety of guest contributors who provide a range of personal perspectives on issues relevant to them, including those who have experienced state-sponsored persecution and genocide. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HMDT.