In our latest blog commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks writes about the need for community cohesion for the sake of hope, friendship, tolerance and life.
When one thinks of the Holocaust, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the presence of death, the evidence of hate, and the temptation to despair. How any individual survived, seeing what they saw, knowing what they know, I have no idea. Yet survive they did, and they are among the strongest, most life-affirming people I ever met. Their stories of survival are an extraordinary signal of hope. They came eyeball-to-eyeball with the angel of death, but devoted their lives to life.
I think of the great psychiatrist no longer alive, Viktor Frankl, who lived in – and survived – the horrors of Auschwitz. Frankl spent all his time in Auschwitz tending people where he could, giving them a reason to live, and thus the strength to live.
I think of Rabbi Yekutiel Halberstam who lost his wife and all eleven of his children in the Holocaust yet went on to not only rebuild his community, but built a hospital called the Laniado Hospital in Netanya in Israel, where religious Jews and Christians and Muslims work together to heal Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel without distinction - faith, creed, colour or anything.
Our society – in the UK and around the world – is made up of not one faith but multiple, not one perspective but a diversity of opinion that spans a vast political and cultural spectrum. The tragedy of the Holocaust, and other acts of genocide, transcends any single people or nation. It touches on what is human in all of us. Out of its depths comes a clarion call, amplified by the outstanding work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, pleading with all people to come together in the future for the sake of hope, friendship, tolerance and life. It calls on us to – as this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme suggests – build a bridge, to respect the human dignity of people like us and in those unlike us, and to remember the past to build a brighter future for our generation and generations not yet born.