Office of the Chief Rabbi

Thought for the Day: Holocaust Memorial Day 2021

Even a tiny flame can conquer darkness.

 

It is reported that, over the past five days, over 14 million people have read a tweet posted by 17 year old, Dov Forman. He wrote, “My 97-Year-old Great Grandma, Lily Ebert, an Auschwitz Survivor, has just recovered from Covid-19. Today she went on her first walk in a month after making a miraculous recovery.”

Lily was 14 when she was deported to Auschwitz. Like so many other extraordinary survivors, she has recounted her horrific experiences to numerous audiences, relentless in her call for tolerance and compassion.

Interviewed on national television, when reflecting on the virus which nearly took her life, Lily declared: “I choose life, I cannot give up. I have to carry on; to fight.”

For me, whenever I see Lily, her broad natural smile is a beacon of light in dark times.

This evening, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands will be lighting a candle, while iconic landmarks across the UK will be lit up, in order to inspire us to have the courage to ‘be the light in the darkness’. It is a powerful call to responsibility. We would all like to believe that if we ever encountered the evil that made the Holocaust possible, we would respond with great conviction. But, Cain’s lamentable reaction to the murder of his brother Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” has been a tragic and recurrent feature of human history and never more so than during the Holocaust.

Ever Relevant

The Holocaust was unique, but its lessons are ever-relevant. Remaining silent and paralyzed in the face of genocide carries with it the highest possible cost.

Emerging out of the darkness of the crematoria at Auschwitz, many declared, ‘Never again!’ But, sadly, we have said ‘Never again’ all over again, as the world failed to be that light when darkness fell over Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

And right now, amidst atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China, at a time when we see a worrying increase of political and ideological polarisation, hate speech and hate crime, this is not a time to wait for others to act.

Courage and Inspiration

Even a tiny flame can conquer darkness. Every one of us carries the responsibility to be that spark of courage and inspiration.

Lily Ebert invariably concludes her speeches with these words: “The Holocaust is something we try to explain, but can’t. It is unexplainable. Normal human beings cannot take it in. But I hope one thing, that it will never happen again to anybody.”

The pursuit of that goal rests in our hands.

 

For weekly insights from the Chief Rabbi, subscribe using the form below.