visited Auschwitz towards the end of January 2019 - 74 years,
almost to the day, after it was liberated. It was a sombre visit
and seeing the place and the artifacts, brought to life the horror
of that time in a way a book or television documentary
have produced a book with some of my photographs together with a
brief history and my thoughts for the future. Could the holocaust
can download the book here. (This is my first version and
the text may be amended or added to with a view of publication
later in the year.)
a word of warning. Some of my descriptions and pictures are quite
year, 2020, will be the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second
World War. Along with the end of hostilities and the defeat of
Hitler's Nazis, next year also marks 75 years since the liberation
of the concentration camps such as Auschwitz.
allies were aware of these camps and there was some debate of what
to do about these atrocities but the full scale was not known
until their liberation.
troops entered the Auschwitz camp on 27 January 1945, this date
subsequently recognised as Holocaust Memorial Day.
how did the world end up with allowing such horrors to be
Britain and the Allied forces were seen as the victors of World
War One, Germany went through a turbulent period in it's history.
Immediately after the end of hostilities, financially, Germany was
in a stronger position that the Allies, but the Treaty of
Versailles forced the Germans to pay compensation. The admission
by Germany of blame and financial responsibility for the War
created humiliation amongst the German population leading to
increased nationalistic feelings.
led to social and economic depression. Unemployment soared and
inflation made the German currency worthless. The new German
government, called the Weimar Republic, struggled to maintain
Hitler was a corporal in the German army and had fought in the
war. He was attracted to the National Socialist People's Party and
at their invitation, became their leader. He was a powerful and
charismatic speaker and gained wide support from the public. He
was appointed Chancellor in January 1933.
was a racist long before this though. He long believed that there
existed a 'master' race of physically fit, racially pure people
called Ayrans and he saw this group as the future for Europe.
the first world war, many in Germany looked for a scapegoat and
for some it was the Jewish community. In the past Jewish
communities have been the scapegoat in Germany and other European
saw Jewish people as a race rather than a religion and following
the Nuremberg Race Laws (1935) being enacted, Jewish people in
Germany had their citizenship revoked and had many restriction
placed on them.
final solution to the "Jewish Problem" was to rid
Germany of all Jews. But it wasn't just Jews that Hitler hated.
Nazis would use the latest technology in poisonous gassing to
exterminate all Jews, Gypsies, dissidents, the disabled and
prisoners of war.
of the atrocities is harrowing enough but to visit a place like
Auschwitz brings it home. There one can see the actual remains of
this gruesome period in history.
was one thing I was curious about. What did the German
population know about the fate of the Jews?
After the war ended in 1945,
German citizens claimed they did not know the detail of the camp
atrocities and at first, this was generally accepted by
Robert Gellately, in his book, "Backing Hitler",
challenged that claim. He analysed German newspaper and magazine
archives since 1933, the year Hitler became chancellor.
Nazi propaganda was also very effective. They pushed the line that
the Jews were the cause of World War One and that there was a
worldwide conspiracy. If the people are told a lie enough times,
they'll eventually take it as fact.
whilst the general population were aware that the Jewish Problem
was being dealt with, the actual murderous atrocities were kept a
killing factories, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka amongst others,
were located in remote forests. The Nazis wanted their names
erased from history so once the killing was completed, they were
to be destroyed and left to nature.
it happen again?
a way what happened in Germany was the perfect storm. A
combination of different events that resulted in the mass murder.
Some of those individual events are happening today. Donald Trump
bangs his nationalistic drum, demonising Muslims, amongst others.
the UK, the Labour Party is embroiled in anti-Semitism.
Jewish MP Luciana Berger's decision to quit the Labour Party over
anti-Semitism led to Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson to say she
had been "bullied out of her own party by racist thugs".
The Derby North MP, Chris Williamson was suspended from the party
in February 2019 after suggesting that the party had been too
apologetic on anti-Semitism whilst the former Labour MP, Joan
Ryan, was threatened with rape and told she should be "shoved
right back in the ovens".
is worrying that some people think it's acceptable to say or act
in this way today.
at Europe, there is rising anti-Semitism amongst far-right
organisations and for the first time since 1945, some Jewish
people are concerned for their future.
France has reported a 74%
increase in the number of offences against Jews in 2018 and
Germany said the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks had surged
by more than 60%.
French president, Emmanuel Macron, denounced the trend as
“unacceptable” whilst Petra Pau, an MP for Germany’s Die
Linke party, said more and more people felt free to “deny the
Holocaust and engage in anti-Semitic agitation”.
In Germany, home to Europe’s
third largest Jewish community after France and Britain, the
far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party has been widely
accused of fomenting hate against refugees, Muslims and Jews.
The party’s co-leader,
Alexander Gauland, described the Holocaust as a “small bird
dropping in over 1,000 years of successful German history”,
while another senior AfD politician, Björn Höcke, called the
Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame”.
Hungary’s far-right Fidesz
party, led by prime minister Viktor Orbán, has run vitriolic
campaigns against migrants and demonised George Soros, the
Hungarian-born Jewish financier.
Jean Veil, the son of the late
French Holocaust survivor and politician, Simone Veil, told RTL
radio that “at bottom, we knew the leprosy was still there”.
He said this after swastikas were daubed on postboxes that had a
portrait of his late mother.
current system of international law places important constraints
on the power of the state, but it has not stopped atrocity.
mass killings and atrocities did not end in 1945. Around the world
there have been terrible events. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia
and Darfur come to mind.
say we learn from history. I would like to think we have learned
from what occurred during the Holocaust but the evidence of the
rise in far right, anti-Semitic organisations suggests otherwise.
have faith in humanity but I fear that without vigilance and firm
action, other atrocities are likely to occur again.