Professor Stuart Foster, Centre Executive Director remarks to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2022:
The eminent historian, Yehuda Bauer, reminds us that ‘there are no lessons inherent in the Holocaust’ and ‘any attempt to distil [its] complexity into a moral fable is bound to lead to oversimplification, half understandings and superficial knowledge.’
At the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education we agree with Professor Bauer’s perceptive remarks. The Europe of the 1930s and 1940s was very different from society today and it is inappropriate to draw direct comparisons and seek simplistic ‘lessons’. But a study of the past does give us perspective. It allows us to analyse and reflect on how and why the Holocaust happened in countries not very far away and not very long ago. It compels us to consider difficult issues such as: how and why did extremism flourish in ostensibly educated and democratic countries? How and why did a poisonous antisemitic and racial ideology infect the minds of so many? How and why did millions of people across Europe became complicit in mass murder and genocide? A study of the Holocaust also demands that we understand and reflect on the experiences and responses of the victims and consider, for example, why were only a small minority prepared to protect, support and advocate for them?
Our Centre believes in the importance of engaging young people with these complex and challenging questions and, in Bauer’s words, ‘to cultivate in them enquiring minds, independent and critical thinking as they reflect on what the Holocaust means for them today.’ Holocaust Memorial Day offers us all an opportunity to pause and reflect. It allows us a moment to remember and honour those who perished and suffered. It also reminds us of the imperative to educate young people to understand the significance of this genocide in all its harrowing complexity.’
Our Centre will hold a team online gathering to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and provide an opportunity to collectively reflect upon the ‘One Day’ national theme.
Our Beacon Schools and alumni are marking #HMD2022 in various ways for their students, staff and communities – get a flavour of activities planned this week in our short video: