Holocaust Memorial Day - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 10:32 am ar 2 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Stevens of Birmingham Lord Stevens of Birmingham Crossbench 10:32, 2 Chwefror 2024

In her essay The Future of Auschwitz, the philosopher Gillian Rose’s radical challenge to those of us who are not Jewish is

“not only to identify … in infinite pain with ‘the victims’, but to engage in intense self-questioning: ‘Could I have done this?’ ... ‘How easily could we have allowed this to be carried out?’”

So, Holocaust remembrance means holding two truths in tension: that the Shoah was a unique rupture in human history, but that the virus of exterminationist racism lives on.

It lives on in the Hamas murderer from Gaza who phoned his proud parents on 7 October to celebrate: “Your son killed Jews! I swear, 10 with my own hands mother! Open WhatsApp on your phone and see the dead!” It lives on when a young Israeli at a music festival that day has to hide in the woods to escape certain death—just as his great-grandfather did eight decades earlier en route to a concentration camp. It lives on in Kfar Aza and Sderot, where I have seen with my own eyes the atrocities and death—the hand grenades and knives—meted out to babies and mothers and grandmas.

These crimes pierced the world’s post-Holocaust covenant of a safe national homeland for the Jewish people. In doing so, they confirmed its necessity—because 7 October and its aftermath has brought a terrible clarity: that there are still those who seek the annihilation of Jews. Their threats are not polemic—they are fact. They are not only word, but deed. If they could have murdered more, they would. We have been reminded, in the most brutal way, that appeasing evil does not lead to a just and lasting peace. So taking Holocaust remembrance seriously means seeing the world as it is, and acting to prevent and to stop further genocides.

The Holocaust was a unique tragedy for the Jewish people but, in Avishai Margalit’s telling, it was also

“a direct onslaught on the very idea of shared humanity”.

Today we affirm our shared humanity—one in which, as the Talmud says:

“Whoever saves a single life is considered as if he saved an entire world”,

and one in which the Koran, in remarkably similar terms says:

“Whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the lives of all”.