Holocaust Memorial Day is a critically important opportunity to remember those who suffered the horrors of concentration camps, not just in Nazi Germany, but in genocides across the world.
We know that the Pink Triangles – those marked by the Nazis as homosexual – fell victim to the same unimaginable brutality as millions of others. Just months ago we lost Rudolf Brazda, one of the last Pink Triangle survivors. In 2009, Rudolf bravely spoke out about his suffering. When asked why he hadn’t spoken before, he replied simply: ‘Before, no one cared’.
For me, the particular importance of Holocaust Memorial Day is that it allows us not just a chance to remember but also a chance to reflect on what’s still to be done. And the theme of HMD this year - ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’ - is particularly resonant to millions of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It’s a powerful reminder that silence is the vacuum that allows intolerance to fester.
Polling commissioned recently by Stonewall found that three in four victims of homophobic hate crime in Britain had not reported those crimes to the police. Nine in ten secondary school teachers, also polled by YouGov for Stonewall, say that children and young people still experience homophobic bullying in their schools.
Across the globe being gay is still illegal in 80 countries. In six countries the penalty is death. For more than 200 million gay people worldwide each day is filled with the fear of being beaten, imprisoned or murdered at any moment. And that intolerance doesn’t only exist overseas.
Many gay people in Britain still remember painfully the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits announcing in 1993 that homosexuality was a ‘disability’. He did not see ‘any moral objection for using genetic engineering to limit this trend’.
Unlike Lord Jakobovits, at Stonewall we believe that all communities affected by the Holocaust should stand shoulder to shoulder. And thankfully, the Britain we inhabit in the second decade of the twenty-first century is itself measurably different, and measurably more tolerant, that the one inhabited by Lord Jakobovits in the last decade of the twentieth.
However, the lesson of history so often is that prejudice doesn’t die. It just slumbers. What we owe Rudolf Brazda and every victim of Holocaust is a world where, with each new generation, we instil respect for every single human being in all their magical difference. Until we’ve built that world, we should not rest.
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive
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