Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’

Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th January, 2016

Auschwitz BerkenauMore than 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the lessons of the Holocaust are still highly relevant. Over the past year there has been a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other instances of ethnic and religious discrimination, not least in Europe, and Holocaust Memorial Day is a stark reminder of just how terribly wrong things can go when prejudice and discriminatory behaviour are considered acceptable and reach extremes. The refugee and migrant crisis of the past year has given rise to some splendid spontaneous acts of generosity but it has also provoked negative reactions in some quarters. Hearing the British Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons today refer dismissively to “a bunch of migrants” I found chilling, as well as reflecting a disturbing element of entitlement within the current Conservative government. Even worse has been the shameful proposition from the government in Denmark to seize valuables from asylum seekers. Don’t the Danes realise what dreadful echoes of the not-so-distant past that provokes? Europe is undeniably under pressure at the moment but the way forward is to cooperate with compassion, not to scapegoat vulnerable communities and incomers. Even among our indigenous populations in Europe there are growing numbers of marginalised and dispossessed people, including homeless in our cities, not least London. We should not fall into the trap of looking down on people, including those sleeping in the streets, because that is the start of a slippery slope.

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Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 27th January, 2015

Karel BaracsEvery year on Holocaust Memorial Day I go to a commemoration of some kind, usually at an embassy of one of the central or eastern European states, but this year was special — and not only because the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was being marked. Europe House, the London offices of the European Commission and the European Parliament, housed a remarkable show this evening: Why Tram 8 No Longer Runs. A monologue by the self-styled Story-teller of Amsterdam, Karel Baracs, with musical accompaniment, recounts the true story of how two young Dutch women — one Karel’s mother — managed to spirit 80 Jewish children out of a creche set up by the Nazis prior to their intended deportation and extermination, one or two at a time. In particular the narration focussed on the experience of a six-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother taken to safety to live on the farm of a gentile couple, with the active participation of a Jewish man who had been hiding in a basement in Amsterdam for months — and who after the War married Karel’s mother. As with all good storytelling, the facts only emerge gradually, amidst passages of suspense and moments of humorous relief. The tragic back-story is that most if not all of the parents of the rescued children did perish in concentration camps or under other dreadful conditions. There are bad guys among the Dutch, as well as heroes, in the story, as well as one good German soldier, who played a crucial role in ensuring the two infants and Karel’s father survived. These are the sort of stories that must never be forgotten, even as the last Holocaust survivors die out and it was a wonderful tribute, as well as a moving performance, to have a descendant keeping the flame of memory so brilliantly alive.

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There Is No Excuse for Anti-Semitism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st February, 2009

200px-nicolas_maduro An armed gang has broken into the oldest synagogue in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, desecreating the building and calling for Jews to be expelled from the country. This follows the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador and his staff by President Hugo Chavez in protest at the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, but the Venezuelan government has been quick to denounce the synagogue attack, in which the walls were daubed with anti-Semitiuc and anti-Israel slogans. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro condemned this ‘criminal act of vandalism’, adding, ‘we call on all the Venezuelan people, the entire Venezuerlan community, to reject these actions, with the same moral force with which we reject the crimes committed against the Palestinian people.’

There has been a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the world, including Britain, since the Israeli assault on Gaza. But the one does not justify the other. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions now are as vilely inappropriate as assaults on Muslims and Islamic institutions were in the wake of 9/11. Only four days ago in the United Kingdom we marked Holocaust Memorial Day, reminding ourselves of the horrific extremes to which anti-Semitism can go and the obscenity of genocide against any people. I don’t often agree with the rhetoric of Venezuela’s radical socialist government, but in this case Minister Maduro got it right. Just as we should morally condemn killings and abuses against Palestinians, so we should decry assaults on Jews.

(photo of Nicolas Maduro)

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