Mayor Muir speaks at Bangor Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration Event

Mayor Muir speaking at the event
On Monday 27 January evening I was humbled and honoured to lead the Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration at The Castle, Town Hall, Bangor as Mayor of North Down.

Millisle Primary School Pupil Jasper Robbins read an extract from ‘Faraway Home’ by Marilyn Taylor alongside another Pupil Molly McBride who read a extract from Martha Blend, Holocaust Survivor.

Guest Speaker Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International spoke about Genocides from across the world, the need to stand up for Human Rights and recalled the quote "And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world" (Talmud).

Some more Millisle Primary School Pupils then spoke, with Lucy Cunningham reading an extract from ‘Faraway Home’ by Marilyn Taylor and Jake Donaldson reading an extract from Paul Gruninger, Swiss Police Commander.

Larry Kitzler and Mayor Muir at Candle Lit
to remember victims of the Holocaust
Words from Larry Kitzler, a descendant from the Kinderfarm in Millisle were read by Pupil Jasper Robbins followed by reflective comments from myself as Mayor of North Down with Larry then lighting the candle to remember victims of the Holocaust.

When speaking at the start I remarked that the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day this year is “Journeys” and that we are all on a journey

Commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in Northern Ireland started in 2002

Since first Commemoration in 2002 Northern Ireland’s journey has progressed with devolution now firmly in place, Equality and Human Rights protected in law, policies and procedures proofed for compliance and at the core of our new policing setup.

We do however need to progress further on this journey if we are to realise the hopes and dreams of many for a truly open, welcoming and shared society devoid of prejudice and discrimination which includes rather than excludes those considered different.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International speaking
As the well-known Pyramid of Hate demonstrates the journey from Prejudiced Attitudes to Genocide can be progressed far too easily and quickly without appropriate leadership prepared to challenge intolerant prejudicial attitudes and promote diversity as something  that should be celebrated rather than rejected.

Journey from Prejudiced Attitudes to Acts of Prejudice to Discrimination, then Violence and finally Genocide has, unfortunately, been followed on many occasions, whether in Nazi occupied Germany & Europe, Somalia, former Yugoslavia Rwanda, Cambodia or Darfur history has many examples where journey to genocide progressed due to breakdown in society and need for strong cohesive leadership against hate and for inclusion and respect.

In closing I remarked that the event was an opportunity to understand why prejudicial attitudes should be challenged by recalling the past, learning lessons and remembering those affected by the Holocaust and Genocides across the world.

The total number of holocaust victims is estimated to be between 11 million and 17 million people and includes Jews, Soview POWs, Ethnic Poles, Romani, people with a disability, the mentally ill, black or Asian people, Freemasons, Slovenes, Lesbian and Gay people, plus political dissidents, communists, socialists, trade unionists and those with particular religious views such as Jehovah's Witnesses.

Pastor Martin Niemöller once famously remarked;

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me

I stated that by holding the event we speak out and focus upon wider issues with Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International and the story of the Kinderfarm in Millise which serves as a positive beacon of hope with many people saved as a result of the Kindertransport and the Kinderfarm.

Anne Frank once said “I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”

Anne Frank never got the opportunity to carry out her ideals but whilst we have the opportunity we should continue pursing inclusion, equality and respect whilst reflecting on the Holocaust, remembering those lost and recalling both causes and lessons to learn.