The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was “fragility of freedom”.
Many in Barnet’s Jewish community may not need to be reminded how fragile freedom is; the very worst consequences of a loss of freedom being etched into so many family histories.
But it is an imperative that the atrocities of eight decades ago are not confined to history, and certainly not just the history of those whose families were torn apart. That is why Holocaust Memorial Day is so important.
We must tell and re-tell the events of the Holocaust, we must continue to educate younger generations about what took place and of the evil of antisemitism, and we must never let anyone downplay those darkest years in European history.
Holocaust Memorial Day asks us all to pause and consider the past, and have it inform our present.
Along with institutions such as Yad Vashem in Israel, it plays a vital role in turning us all to face the worst of humanity to renew our determination to protect and defend freedom today.
I had the honour of visiting Yad Vashem last September, and attended a deeply moving remembrance ceremony in the Hall of Names.
I would never have thought that only weeks later, the biggest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust would unfold.
Since that tragic day, levels of antisemitism here in the UK have soared. Listening to Jewish residents across Chipping Barnet, I’ve heard how many have experienced more fear, more anxiety and more discomfort in their own city than in a very long time.
We must be willing to challenge the indifference which enables hate to grow. This needs to happen in local communities, in public spaces when we see unacceptable behaviour, and, yes, in our political parties too.
Today, we are fortunate to be in a very different position from those who resisted the Nazis –but we face the same moral imperative not to stand by when freedom starts to be eroded.
It’s never been – and it must never be – the responsibility of Jews alone to tackle antisemitism.
Hatred only succeeds when its targets are isolated from their friends, neighbours and communities.
To preserve our precious freedom, to build a better future in Barnet and Britain, we must remember that indifference, negligence and apathy are not victimless crimes.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to stop, think, and learn. The rest of the year is the time to act.
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