On 27th January each year Scotland holds a national Holocaust Memorial Day event to honour the memory of those who suffered and perished under the Nazi persecutions during World War II, and subsequent genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.
The day offers an opportunity to join millions of others across the world to come together to pause, to remember and to reflect on what we need to do to create a future free from the dangers of racist violence and discrimination.
Interfaith Scotland worked in partnership with East Dunbartonshire Council to host the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative event, which took
place in Bishopbriggs on 26th January 2017.
The theme for 2017 was 'How can life go on'. The aftermath of the Holocaust and of subsequent genocides continues to raise challenging questions for individuals, communities and nations. This year we asked people to think about what happens after genocide and of our own responsibilities in the wake of such a crime. Author and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has said:
'For the survivor death is not the problem. Death was an everyday occurrence. We learned to live with Death. The problem is to adjust to life, to living. You must teach us about living.'
The key note speakers for 2017 were Saskia Tepe who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and author of ‘Surviving Brigitte’s Secrets’, which tells of her mother’s journey after liberation and Umetesi Stewart, who is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, now living in Scotland. Saskia and Umetesi spent several days speaking to hundreds of school pupils in Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh and East Renfrewshire, as well as visiting and speaking at the Scottish Jewish Archive Centre, Low Moss prison and holding workshops at a youth conference at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow. Interfaith Scotland also worked in partnership with Glasgow University to host an Interfaith Peace Service in the University Chapel on Sunday 22nd January.
You can read more about the Holocaust Memorial Day on Interfaith Scotland's blog: https://interfaithscotland.wordpress.com/
The Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative event took place in Falkirk on 27th January 2016. The theme in 2016 was 'Don't Stand By' which recognised people who have not ignored genocide and through significant acts of heroism have helped to save the lives of many people. The key note speakers were Professor Mukesh Kapila who was influentional in bringing the situation in Darfur to worldwide attention and Inge Auerbacher, a survivor of the Terezin concentration camp. Professor Kapila and Inge Auerbacher also spent several days speaking to school pupils in Glasgow, Falkirk, Edinburgh and East Renfrewshire, as well as visiting the Scottish Parliament and speaking at a youth conference at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow.
Interfaith Scotland worked in partnership with the Glasgow Film Theatre to show 'The Devil Came on Horseback'. The film was followed by a Q&A with Professor Mukesh Kalipa CBE. Professor Mukesh Kalipa held a public lecture at Glasgow Caledonian University entitled 'Against a Tide of Evil: Why does 'never again' happen again and again?'. An event was also held at Polmont Young Offenders Institute consisting of a reception, viewing the creative work of the young men of Polmont and a panel discussion hosting Professor Mukesh Kalipa, Inge Auerbacher and Claire Macaulay (Scottish Action for Refugees).
Interfaith Scotland held the National Scottish Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 event on Tuesday 27th January at Ayr Town Hall with special guest speakers Ela Weisberger and Hasan Hasanovich. 2015 marked 70 years since the liberation of the death camps and 20 years since the Srebrenica massacre. During their 8 day visit to Scotland, Ela and Hasan spoke at schools in Glasgow, Ayr and Edinburgh, the Glasgow City Chambers and the Scottish Parliament.
Ela Weissberger is a Czech Jewish Holocaust Survivor of Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. Ela was born in 1930 in Lom u Mostu, Czechoslovakia. She fled with her mother and sister to Prague in 1938 after the German Nazis invaded and her father, Max Stein, ‘disappeared’ and 300 Nazis smashed the Stein’s house to bits. Together with her mother, grandmother, her uncle and her sister, Ela was deported to Theresienstadt in 1942. She performed the role of the cat in the Hans Krasa’s children's opera “Brundibár” at the concentration camp. From 1942 to 1943, Ela played the role in 55 performances. Ela is one of the few remaining cast members alive and has performed on Broadway and throughout the world over the years.
Hasan Hasanovich, Bosnian Genocide Survivor was born in 1975. Hasan moved with his family to the eastern Bosnian town of Bratunac in 1991. When the genocide began the following year Hasan and his family were forced to move to Srebrenica, a town designated by the United Nations as the first "Safe Area." Following the assault on Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, Hasan and several family members escaped and, with thousands of other men and boys, began a 100-km journey now known as "The Column" or "Death March." Only a fraction of the men, including Hasan, survived the six-day walk and managed to reach the free territory of Tuzla. Hasan’s father, twin brother and uncle were killed along the way. After some time away from Srebrenica, Hasan returned in 2009, where he now works as both a curator and interpreter for the Srebrenica-Potočari Cemetery and Memorial Centre. Hasan's autobiography has been edited by Interfaith Scotland's director, Dr Maureen Sier and is available to purchase from Amazon. Copies are also available from our office.
Interfaith Scotland organised Scotland's national commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday 27th January in Stirling on the theme of 'Journeys'. Speakers included Arn Chorn Pond and Dr Alfred Munzer (see below). There was also a musical performance on the plight of the Roma people during the Holocaust and a video showing of interviews with Holocaust survivors produced by From Yesterday For Tomorrow. In addition to the national commemoration, Arn Chorn Pond and Dr Munzer spent several days speaking to school pupils in Glasgow, Stirling, East Renfrewshire and Edinburgh.
Arn Chorn Pond grew up in Phnom Penh and is a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia. As a child he worked in forced labour camps and was later forced to become a soldier. He escaped through the jungle and was adopted by a minister in the United States. Arn Chorn Pond is a human rights activist, winning numerous awards for his work. He is an accomplished flautist and the founder of Cambodian Living Arts.
Dr Alfred Munzer comes from a Jewish family. Originally from Poland, his family moved to the Netherlands before his birth. When the Nazis invaded, the decision was made that the family would be split up and hidden with different families locally. Dr Munzer was hidden with an Indonesian family when he was only nine months old. He and his mother were the only survivors in his family, and after going through 12 different concentration camps, they were reunited after the war.
Interfaith Scotland, in partnership with Glasgow City Council, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government, organised an 8-day programme of events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day with invited guests Jean Paul Samputu and Sello Hatang in January 2013. Jean Paul and Sello spoke at schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh, refugee organisations, faith communities, film showings at the GFT and the main event which took place at Glasgow City Chambers on 28th January.
Jean Paul Samputu is a world renowned musician who survived the Rwanda Genocide of 1994 during which he lost his parents and three siblings. He had to come to terms with these atrocities within himself before being reconciled with his family's killers. Since doing this he has worked for peace and reconciliation and set up the Samputu Forgiveness Campaign.
Sello Hatang comes from South Africa and is the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's visit to Glasgow to receive the Freedom of the City, so it was particularly appropriate to hear from someone involved with the process of the Truth and Justice commission.