Catastrophe for Humanity

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

Catastrophe for Humanity


Byline: By JENNY REES Western Mail

The Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, writes on the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day today WE need to keep reminding ourselves that the Holocaust was one of the most terrible events of the 20th century, a crisis for European civilisation and a universal catastrophe for humanity.

That is why today I will join the Queen, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, First Minister Rhodri Morgan and many others at the Palace of Westminster to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the extermination and concentration camps.

Likewise, my fellow Wales Office Minister, Don Touhig, will read a lesson at the Wales National Holocaust Remembrance Service at City Hall, Cardiff.

National Holocaust Memorial Day provides a national mark of respect for all victims of Nazi persecution and demonstrates our understanding for all those who still suffer the consequences of those terrible times.

Six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis - more than twice the population of modern-day Wales.

Wales, of course, was deeply affected by the Second World War. Some 15,000 Welsh servicemen and women were killed, together with hundreds of civilians. Many thousands more were injured and still bear the scars and the memories. I have met and marched with some of the veterans at Royal British Legion events.

My father was wounded in Italy, his best friend killed by shrapnel in a trench by his side.

Those who are now our senior citizens endured years of harsh living conditions, either in the Armed Services or on the Home Front. And I hope that this summer they enjoy the programme of events being organised to celebrate the end of the Second World War.

Many of our service men and women were among the first to liberate the terrible concentration camps and to witness the depths to which evil can plummet. Many to this day cannot bring themselves of speak of the horrors they witnessed.

I am sure that all will be particularly moved as we remember the Holocaust today and they pay their own silent tribute.

Just as in the war Wales provided a refuge for evacuees from the Blitz, so it also opened its arms to many survivors of the concentration camps who settled in our country and renewed their lives away from the nightmares they had witnessed.

One of them, Ellen Davis, of Swansea, routinely speaks to children about her experiences as a Jewish survivor of Nazi persecution and the devastation of the Second World War.

She was a Jewish child who grew up in Germany and witnessed at first hand the horror of the Nazi regime and she tells of her life in the BBC Radio Wales All Things Considered programme which is repeated tonight at 6.30pm.

Ellen Davis has published an autobiography called Kerry's Children in which she recalls her struggle to protect her younger siblings from the terrors of Nazi Germany, her harrowing escape to Britain, her new life with foster parents in Wales and her heart-rending search for her surviving Jewish family in Austria, Israel and the United States.

We must never forget the terrible events that she and many millions of others witnessed and she is a constant reminder to ourselves and subsequent generations of the triumph of good over evil.

For raising awareness and understanding of the events of the Holocaust is a continuing issue of fundamental importance for all humanity.

We must ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation are neither forgotten nor repeated, whether in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

I was a founder member of the Anti-Nazi League in the late 1970s and '80s. We confronted and defeated the National Front then and we must confront and defeat its successor, the British National Party now.

And we need to re-emphasise the vital importance of a democratic and tolerant society, free of the evils of prejudice, racism and other forms of bigotry and to support the view that all citizens - without distinction - should participate freely and fully in the economic, social and public life of the country. …

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