Monday, 27 January 2020

The first major Holocaust Remembrance Day ever in Britain was held in Manchester on 27 January 2001

Mark Metcalf (@markmetcalf07) Tweeted:
#HolocaustRemembranceDay – the first large event in Britain was held in Manchester Town Hall on 27 January 2001. 500  heard anti-fascist, trades unionist and reps of Jewish and anti-racist groups speak. Here is the speech by delivered by anti-fascist GA.

Holocaust Memorial Meeting

Manchester Town Hall 27 January 2001

1.  Thanks to organisers

2.  Today is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Red Army in 1945 and this event, perhaps more than any other, symbolises the commemoration of the Holocaust.

3.  The Holocaust was not, of course, the first 20th century genocide.  The Turks murdered an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War.  Hitler was familiar with this genocide, and once, pondering his plans for the Jews, even asked the question: “Who will remember the Armenians?”

4.  If we are properly to remember the Holocaust, it is very important that we understand its specific motives: the implementation of racial theories, which proclaimed the inferiority of non-Germanic, non-Nordic peoples, in particular the Jews, the Roma and Sinti, the Poles and other Slavic peoples.

5.  At Auschwitz and other death camps and in the killing fields of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, these people were murdered in their millions: an estimated 6 million Jews, an estimated 20 million Slavs and as many as half a million Roma and Sinti.  In these same locations, others…political opponents, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically handicapped… were also done to death, irrespective of their alleged race.

6.  What made these vile acts of brutality and murder absolutely unique was that their Nazi perpetrators used the most modern industrial techniques of production and accounting for the barbaric purpose of the destruction of human life.

7.  It does no honour whatsoever to those slaughtered by the Nazi hordes to portray them merely as hapless victims because, horrific though the scale of fascist crimes was, they did not go ahead without resistance.  

8. Indeed, having perceived the brutality of the Nazi dictatorship, those who grasped its intentions fought Hitler and his cohorts with appropriate ferocity under the most adverse conditions imaginable.

9.  It would be less than fitting, then, if at least some of those courageous resistance fighters were not mentioned  here today: 

  the Baum Group, composed of Jewish and non-Jewish factory workers who organised sabotage and inspired active wartime opposition in Berlin, the very heart of Hitler’s Reich

  the fighters in the Warsaw ghetto and the Jewish partisan formations, in cities like Vilnius, who delivered armed resistance to the SS and Wehrmacht.

  other partisan groups, frequently composed of both Jews and non-Jews and mainly led by communists, who organised similar armed resistance it should be noted here that, for the Nazis, these resistance fighters were termed “Jewish-Bolshevik” and were to be “liquidated” wherever they were found.

  the dockers and factory workers of Rotterdam, who organised and general strike to oppose the deportation of the Dutch Jews, and the immigrant MOI movement in Paris, led by Armenians – whose nation had experienced genocide – who assassinated Nazi officers and heavily sabotaged German military transport

  and, finally, the biggest battalions of all: the Red Army, which turned the tide at Stalingrad and which, throughout the whole military conflict, never engaged less than 75% of the entire German armed forces.

To these must be added, of course, the Western allied forces whose invasion of Europe in June 1944 spelled final doom for the Nazis.

10.  Could the Holocaust have been avoided? 

We do not know but had the other European powers challenged Hitler’s march into the Rhineland in 1936 or not actively hindered the fight of the International Brigades against Franco fascism in Spain, Hitler might not have felt so confident to launch his aggression and the mass exterminations which followed.  

11.  It would also be less than honest on this important anniversary, however, if no reference was made to the failure of the United States and the European powers to provide anything like an adequate refuge for Jews fleeing from fascism.  

Those who today like to bandy about figures about immigrants and asylum seekers and publicly congratulate themselves today for their “tough policies” might do well to remember the tragedy that ensued from the tough policies displayed by their governmental forerunners in the 1930s.

12.  If we cannot change the past we are, surely, at least obliged to learn from it and perhaps the biggest lesson of all – at a time when in some European countries, fascism has broken out of its postwar marginalisation – is that fascism has to be opposed and destroyed, root and branch, as soon as it appears…a lesson that was well understood by Hitler himself.

13.  Thus, the crimes of fascism must not be abstracted from the need to struggle against it.  The crimes are the very reason to struggle against it.  

14. And, if we draw these conclusions and have the will to act on them,  what confidence does it inspire for the future when one learns, according to recent revelations, that an SS mass killer was able to escape prosecution in the UK because he was working as an informer for the security services? What confidence does it inspire when a murderer like the Chilean fascist Pinochet – one of whose role models was Hitler – is able to leave the country without being brought to justice? 

And…what are we to make of the fact that in the early days after the war, at the same time as life was being made difficult by our own authorities for survivors of the Holocaust both in Britain and Palestine, an entire division of the murderous Waffen SS was given refuge in this country by the British government? 

15. If we are genuinely to remember the torment suffered by millions at the hands of the Nazis, it is incumbent upon us to recognise the evils of racism and antisemitism on which those sufferings were founded and actively to combat those evils without fear and without favour.

16. Those who failed to act or looked the other way in the 1930s could genuinely claim that they had not known what the results would be.  

We, on the other hand, do know what happened and, therefore, do not have that luxury or excuse today.

Thank you…

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