It seems these days as though every worthy charity – and quite a few less worthy commercial groups – have their own awareness months or weeks. Sometimes these are very important ways of helping to remind us of issues and concerns – but at other times they are just very silly and rather throw-away.
However, today, Wednesday, January 27, we are having an awareness day that was anything but silly. And it is one which truly does matter as a way of offering a chance for collective reflection on a hugely important subject.
For today is the day that the world recognises Holocaust Memorial Day. January 27 was chosen because it was the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated.
Even in a world which has a very bloody history, the Holocaust stands out as being an almost uniquely evil event.
The scale and the methodical process by which a politically-warped movement attempted to systematically destroy everybody that didn’t fit into their perfect world should be the stuff of mad science fiction or extreme horror fantasy. And yet this was (despite attempts by contemptible revisionists to say otherwise) not a work of fiction.
This ‘story’ was tragically all true and ended with the death of six million Jewish people and millions of other political prisoners, disabled people, homosexuals, gypsies and anyone else that fell short of the Nazi ‘ideal’.
As regular readers of this column/blog may recall I visited Auschwitz myself last year and wrote about it from my hotel the same night. I said then that I was struck by the sheer banality of the place and its unremarkable features considering it was about as near the earth has come to creating a living hell.
As I walked around the Polish camp I just could not imagine the suffering that took place on that soil and that is why I felt it was vital that we all kept this in our consciousness. After all if I found the Holocaust hard to believe when I was standing in its epicentre, how much harder is it for new generations to get to grips with what happened in the early 1940s?
The idea of the memorial day is two-fold. One is to remember the victims and the other is to focus our minds on making sure that whatever our political or religious views we never allow anything as catastrophic to happen again. Sadly, however, it seems we may be failing. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust believe it is vital not just to focus on the Nazi horrors but to use the day to highlight and remember the suffering in more modern genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. That list, tragically, remains open....
So, while we can all have a smile at genuine events such as Sneakers at Work Day, World Hello Day and even Be Kind To Editors and Writers Month (it is September!) let’s hope they never take attention away from the really important days for us to think about a certain issue.
And for me nothing can be as important as remembering the Holocaust.