What’s worse is that similarly brutal and arguably more deadly atrocities have been committed since. Most shocking was the man-made Great Chinese Famine that occurred during the Great Leap Forward under Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China. From 1958-1962, 45 million Chinese people lost their lives. The event was not a systematic slaughter like the Holocaust, but it was a deliberate act of brutality by Mao which caused what was probably the most deadly (if indirect) mass killing in history.
However, it would be foolish to assume that atrocities like the Holocaust will never happen again; this would let our guard down to those who want a complete burning to happen again, particularly at present. The Nazi Party was able to win enough seats in 1932 for Hitler to become Chancellor of Germany because of public resentment at the poverty caused by the Great Depression, which the Nazis exploited, targeting the Jews as the reason for their suffering. As much of the world is still recovering from the banking crash of 2007-8 the electorate of each democratic nation needs to be very cautious as to whom they put their trust in, as we are also in a shaky position economically today, with similar feelings of resentment for our political leaders as the Germans felt in the 1930s.
Evidence of this danger can be found at the moment in Greece with the extreme right wing party Golden Dawn enjoying increasing support over the last few years. As some parties are doing in the UK, this neo-Nazi party is blaming immigrants for Greece’s economic crisis. One member of the party running as a political candidate for one of Greece’s elections said a few years back that Greece should “get rid of” 3 million of its immigrants, saying that “They are miasma: subhuman. We don’t care about their existence.” Adding, “We will turn them into soap but we may get a rash. So we’ll only use it to wash cars and pavements.” This obscene dehumanising is precisely what rid the Nazis of all moral restraint. But unlike some fascistic parties in the UK, which do not have a single seat in the House of Commons, Golden Dawn won 18 seats in Greece’s last general election, with Channel 4 stating that the party is almost mainstream.
It is due to threats to vulnerable minorities such as this that we all have a duty to keep the holocaust in public memory, not just in general but in detail, in order that we may be able to spot the signs and prevent something like it from occurring in our lifetimes. If you have the time, do go and hear a survivor of the Holocaust share their story – there are many events that happen around the UK where survivors tell their stories. These personal accounts are priceless and it is important that we hear survivor’s experiences of the Holocaust before it is too late to do so. If the memory of this atrocity is kept alive not just through the history books, but through word-of-mouth down the generations, we can prevent such an atrocity from happening again.
Image: Ivor Jones