Holocaust Memorial Day 2016: Don't Stand By
‘HMD is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented’ (HMD website, January 2016)
- killing members of the group
- causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
- deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
- imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
- forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
Don’t stand by is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016. Why this focus?
The Holocaust and previous and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations allowed this to happen. Whilst some actively supported or facilitated state policies of persecution and indeed murder, there was a vast majority stood by silently. Perhaps they were afraid, perhaps they thought what they saw or heard about was random or would not last. Perhaps they were simply indifferent - they were not being persecuted so why get involved? These bystanders enabled genocide. In Nazi Germany they enabled the Holocaust. In respect of persecution, victimisation, racism, xenophobia or harassment, standing by equates to support. Individuals must always ask themselves ‘What can I do?’ Simple actions start by being aware about the nature of persecution, genocide and Holocaust.
Getting involved in HMD 2016 can begin with the activities and resources from the HMD website - there are films, activities for assemblies and lessons, in the community and in school. There are versions for each jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
Exploring genocide and the Holocaust with pupils and students is not an easy undertaking. They need preparing; the work must be in context and have meaning and legacy. Citizenship teachers should cross check with other subject colleagues' progression in sharing the theme. Teachers should also ensure that before starting such work they refer to guidance on teaching about controversial and topical issues. Citized has downloads on Briefing Students and also Controversy for Beginners. It is important to consider discussing how genocide happens - it is never random, always planned; see more at Genocide Watch.
There is some powerful artwork to provoke discussion by concentration camp and ghetto prisoners from the Nazi era. Currently these are on display in Berlin and feature art works from 50 persons, 24 of whom were murdered. Created under inhumane conditions in great secrecy they show vividly the hatred and bitter experiences the artists endured. Some show almost fantastical scenes, perhaps as a counter to the torture of everyday existance.
There are also the less known examples of genocide in the Ukraine for example - where the deliberate starvation of people by the Russian leader Stalin in the 1930s is known as the Holodomor.
There is also dispute about genocide - as cited above regarding the Armenians and also the Palestinians. Teachers may choose to explore the controversies surrounding these. Sources to start from on Armenia include the BBC.
In Europe since 1945 there have been the genocides during the brutal wars in the Balkans in the 1990s, especially in Bosnia.
Much has also been written about the genocide in Rwanda and Sudan in Africa. There is more about the genocide in Darfur in Sudan.
Students often ask about how perpatrators are punished or if they are ever caught and brought to trial. The British Red Cross produce information about the need to pursue perpetrators of genocide and how international humanitarian law and courts work. There is information on the UN International Criminal Court from the BBC as well.