Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It is essential that we never forget the Holocaust and the horrible mechanisation and normalisation of genocide which it engendered. Six million Jews were killed, and when we remember the Holocaust we rightly remember these six million and the unbearable suffering they all endured.
However, we tend to forget the five million others whom the Nazis tortured and killed. This article gives an incredible list: homosexuals, priests (particularly Catholic ones), Roma gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trades unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples and resistance fighters.
These people were tortured, saw their loved ones killed in front of them, slept amongst dead bodies to keep warm, were forcibly sterilised and/or experimented on…the list goes on and on and is no different to the experiences recounted by Jewish survivors.
So why do we hear so rarely about them? The last gay survivor of the Holocaust died last year, and there was barely any coverage in the media. I have a theory. I believe that if we could have ignored the six million Jews who were persecuted, we would have done. We don’t like the idea that we are capable of this type of persecution ourselves.
Gad Beck, the last gay survivor of the concentration camps, spent many years after his liberation fighting for the right to live his life free of persecution. Homosexuals all over the world still suffer persecution. Only a few weeks ago, some media outlets were reporting that the so-called “Islamic State” terrorists threw gay men off a cliff as punishment for their “crimes”.
Gypsies are still persecuted by authorities all over the world, their encampments broken up and their people verbally and physically abused by those in authority and members of the general public.
In fact, I challenge you to find any one of the minority groups involved in the Holocaust who have not remained persecuted somewhere in the world since World War II. Not to mention all the other minority groups we have added to the list over the last seventy years.
We’re ashamed of this on a deep level, so we refuse to acknowledge that these other minority groups were persecuted by the Nazis too. That way, we can continue to pretend that we are not like the Nazis. That this type of persecution for who you are and what you believe doesn’t happen today.
This is why it’s so important to remember all of the victims of the Holocaust. That way, we can begin to challenge the persecution we see every day, in every corner of the world.