As we focus on the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe – let us also remember what happened in Rwanda

24th January, 2014 11:59 am

January 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, designated as Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) since 2001. HMD is an incredibly important opportunity to honour the survivors of the Holocaust and other mass atrocities; to ensure that the truth of the Holocaust is never forgotten and to learn lessons for the future.

I have had the honour to work with the UK Holocaust Centre based in Laxton in Nottinghamshire and look forward to attending their annual HMD Ceremony this year. The Centre plays a vital role in supporting Holocaust Education in schools and is one of several brilliant organisations undertaking this important activity. The Holocaust Education Trust runs the “Lessons From Auschwitz” programme which enables school students from across the UK to visit Auschwitz.

These organisations have given a voice to the survivors of the Holocaust. Survivor testimony is always powerful and compelling. It is incredibly impressive to witness the impact of survivor testimony on audiences – especially young people.

auschwitz.jpg

The main focus of HMD is rightly on the Nazi Holocaust – the deliberate, clinical and systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish population and the mass murder of other groups including other minority ethnic communities, LGBT people and political opponents. In 1945 the world said “Never Again” and, out of the ashes of the Second World War and the Holocaust, came important new institutions like the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights.

Despite this we have seen further mass atrocities since 1945 – Cambodia, the Balkans and Darfur to name three of the most horrific examples. April 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide when almost a million people – Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were killed in the space of just 100 days.

The Aegis Trust is a fantastic UK-based campaigning organisation which works to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities. It was commissioned to establish the Kigali Memorial Centre in Rwanda so that we never forget the horrors of 1994. It also set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Genocide Prevention. I am honoured to have just taken over as Chair of this All Party Group and look forward to championing their cause in Parliament.

Between 7 January and 7 April this year the Kwibuka Flame (the Flame of Remembrance) will be taken to each of the 30 districts of Rwanda as the country commemorates the appalling atrocities of 1994. This week, as we focus on the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe seven decades ago let us also remember what happened in Rwanda half a century later. Until we learn the lessons of both, the words “Never Again” will ring hollow.

Stephen Twigg is Shadow Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform

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  • swatnan

    Sometimes in the affairs of humans, conflagrations flare up to such an extent that society implodes, and people revert back to their basic instincts through fear and loathing and their own inadequacies. . That is how genocides happen.its an unpleasant side to human nature. And all it takes is just a spark and ignorance and fear. Thats how civiil wars start and thats how world wars start. Just as the living memories of Jewish holocaust fade away its right that we remember the more recent ones like Rwanda.
    Unfortunately ‘never again’ will remain a how phrase because human history has a habit of repeating itself. Bob Dylan put it even better: When will they ever learn?
    The answer is : Never.

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