Holocaust Memorial Day: 'We remember lives cut short and consider how to make things better'

Laura Marks says that Camden's streets can be made safer with the same spirit shown during the pande

Laura Marks, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust - Credit: Archant

One day in 1942, in Amsterdam, when he was five years old, two men came into Martin Stern’s classroom asking for him. His teacher told them he wasn’t there, but too young to understand that she was protecting him, Martin obediently raised his hand.

Innocently, he had handed himself to the Nazis – his crime, that his father was Jewish.

Antoinette Mutabazi was 11 when Hutu militia unleashed 100 days of genocidal brutality against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. Surviving on rain-water and sweet potatoes she scavenged, Antoinette literally hid in the bush for several weeks, one day clinging to her brother who’d been shot, as he died in her arms.

In 2017, Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur Muslim woman brought up in Ghulja, China who now lives in the UK, phoned her older brother back home. “we are fine” he told her guardedly, “please leave us in God’s hands, and we will leave you in God’s hands too.”

She tells me she hasn’t heard from him since that day.

Today, 27th January, is Holocaust Memorial Day and the theme is One Day. We remember the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazis, the victims of other genocides and people, like Rahima’s family, still facing persecution, simply because of who they are.

Around the nation this week, events are taking place so that we can remember, learn and then act. Tonight at 8pm we will #LighttheDarkness lighting candles of remembrance and placing them in our windows. Similarly, buildings close-by, like the Post Office Tower, The British Library and Lords Cricket Ground, will light up in purple, visible to us all from the top of the Heath, Parliament Hill or Primrose Hill.

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Tonight we will celebrate the lives, cut short, of Martin’s father and of Antoinette’s brother, and demand news and action for Rahima’s missing brother.

With candles lit, we can reflect on a pandemic blighted world, often divided – and consider what we can do, in a small way, to make things better. So that one day, very soon, we will truly light the darkness

Laura Marks OBE is chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.