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26.01.21

Why the Holocaust is important to me, to time and why it should be to you

The Holocaust: an event everyone has at the very least heard of, be it in a classroom, media or news. But why do *I* still care about it?

How one day, and 6 million deaths, changed my life

The importance of the Holocaust opened up to me after I stood below the gates saying “Arbeit macht frei”. In 2018 I visited the Auschwitz concentration camp complex – and that visit contained the most disturbing yet meaningful hours of my life. It emphasised to me just how real and tragically recent the Holocaust was; the standout exhibits being a book of the victims’ names and of course, the room with the possessions of the victims and even including their hair. The disturbing yet humbling feeling of walking alongside the tracks leading to the death camp is one I’ll never forget. The possessions of the victims and memorials showing their lineage made clear to me the impact of the genocide still persists to this day and it humanised the event for me. From school certainly, the black and white teaching of Nazi Germany I received gave everything to do with the Third Reich a disconnected feeling. My trip to Auschwitz promptly broke that illusion and showed me, unfiltered, how very real the occurrence of genocide was and can still be. The trip awoke in me respect and grief for the dead, but also vigilance for the future.

The main gate at Auschwitz I. Credit – Tobias Leech

History and the Holocaust – The ONE powerful and guaranteed truth?

The Holocaust as an event in history is fascinating. Firstly, it’s inseparably tied to the wider story of Nazi Germany and the world wars. As such, it’s a part of the recent major turning points in international history, as well as being a turning point in and of itself. The Holocaust serves as humanity’s cruellest act from which out of the ruins of WW2 everyone strived to improve and ensure this never happened again. It serves as an event bigger than the subject of History itself, largely escaping the recent postmodernist questions of truth and having its own cultural connotations and media. Movies, games, books and shows evoke the Holocaust when looking for a unique emotive strike showing just how ingrained and integral the remembrance and importance of the genocide is in our collective conscience. As someone who generally subscribes to the idea of things being subjective, learning about the Holocaust has shaped my own considerations of the importance of History, how I interpret History and my wider worldview. The Holocaust is the one event that I will forever see as fixed and objective.

Holocaust Memorial Day flame. Credit – HMDT

Holocaust and Politics today, unfortunately relevant

The Holocaust also serves as a symbol to the wider conversation of injustice and genocide across the globe. Through remembering and discussing the Holocaust, it also represents a wider condemnation of ongoing or other cases of genocide. Be it in Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Soviet Union or ongoing ones such as in China or Myanmar (Burma): remembrance of the Holocaust by extension remembers the victims of any genocide. Moreover, as someone who became politically active in the digital age, I’m all too aware of the wave of new right-wing populism which saw the likes of Trump, Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini cheered on as they flirted with antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Understanding the importance of the Holocaust and what it can tell us about politics, human nature, history and how genocides occur will only become more important as we go on.

A woman at a rally supporting Uighur Muslims in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit – The Guardian

The Holocaust, therefore, is still important (to me) because it’s one of the most significant and interesting events in human history. Politically, it’s also still sadly relevant. For me, it has helped mould who I am.

 

Tobias Leech – 26/01/21