On Holocaust Memorial Day we should honour those who have suffered and died to ensure that the lessons of the 20th century are not forgotten, writes General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, in a blog originally posted on The Telegraph website and re-posted here.
The pride I hold in leading the British Armed Forces is based largely on the values we hold and the standards to which we aspire. The Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force have embedded, deep within their core, ideals of selfless commitment, courage, discipline, integrity, loyalty and respect for others. Each service expresses them differently but in each is that fire which keeps those who serve striving to do what is right and stop what is wrong.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a reminder for those of us who live by these values that they are not merely words, they have consequences. Seventy years ago we saw in the camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau and so many other places around Europe what happens without those values. They are not religious, but commune with all religions. They are not Western, but align with all cultures and communities. They are not modern, but echo throughout the ages and have their roots in the traditions and writings of all the world’s holy books.
For me, Holocaust Memorial Day is not a day for dry remembrance but for honouring those who suffered and died by acting to ensure that the lesson of that tragedy is not forgotten. Our actions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, East Timor and, most recently, Libya are all part of that. Sadly it is unlikely that attempts to commit genocide will ever cease but it is increasingly likely that we will act to stop them. While HM Armed Forces rarely act alone, I am proud of the efforts that we make alongside international partners and allies in bringing together coalitions to prevent the abuses similar to those committed in the 1940s. The Holocaust Educational Trust’s work and all those who work to educate others about this chapter in Europe’s history play a pivotal role in ensuring those abuses are not forgotten.
This Holocaust Memorial Day I will be remembering my father and his generation who fought evil in the Second World War. I will also remember the young men and women who are serving today in Afghanistan to bring the writ of government to the different ethnic and religious groups around the country. In their own ways both generations are carrying the burden of responsibility to protect the values and standards of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force – the same values which were so tragically ignored during the Holocaust.