HE Antony Phillipson gave opening remarks at the Importance of Remembering: An International Holocaust Remembrance Day Event on 28 January.
Ambassador Yael Rubinstein, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this event that I am very pleased that the British High Commission has been able to arrange with the Embassy of Israel and the British Council.
We are gathered, of course, to mark the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. Many of you will be aware that the day endorsed by the UN General Assembly for this occasion was actually yesterday. The reason for that is that 27 January was the day that Auschwitz was liberated in 1945, 70 years ago.
Yesterday, world leaders, religious groups and many others gathered at Auschwitz to honour those who died there and elsewhere during the Holocaust.
The most important group there was, of course, those who had lived through the horrors of Auschwitz, experiences that many of us find hard to comprehend in terms of going through it ourselves, let alone inflicting it on another human being.
The fact that it happened is one of the darkest stains in the history of humankind.
The fact that we have seen other genocides since then, that we continue to see groups attacked solely due to their creed, colour or ethnicity is one of the great tragedies of our time. This year is also the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebenica, Bosnia.
The fact that we continue to see anti-semitic attacks shows that while those who declared “never again” in 1945 may well have been sincere, we have failed them as we failed those who perished in the Holocaust.
All around the world yesterday, people gathered to play their part in correcting that. Today, we do the same here in Singapore.
You may well ask why we are doing it a day late. Actually, my answer would be that it doesn’t matter. This act of commemoration does not only happen once a year, it should be, it must be, a constant.
Because a key challenge that we must address, just as with Remembrance Sunday when we honour those who died during the First World War, is how to keep the memories of these experiences alive as the generations who endured them pass on.
Most of those survivors who gathered at Auschwitz yesterday were children when they were taken there. Soon they will not be with us, to remind us of what they went through.
But that cannot mean that the memories, and the challenge to make good on the promise of “never again” can fade away with them. That would be the ultimate betrayal.
That is why on Holocaust Memorial Day in January last year Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would build a permanent memorial to the Holocaust.
He also announced a new Commission on the Holocaust, chaired by Mick Davis from the Jewish Leadership Council and including the Chief Rabbi along with representatives from the three main political parties in the UK.
Yesterday at a memorial event in London attended by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister announced that he was accepting the Commission’s recommendations, and that the new memorial in the UK would be accompanied by a Holocaust Learning Centre.
With cross-party consensus he also said that the UK government would commit £50 million to the memorial, Learning Centre and a new endowment to secure the long term future of Holocaust education.
At the event he said “Today we stand together – whatever our faith, whatever our creed, whatever our politics. We stand in remembrance of those who were murdered in the darkest hour of human history, we stand in admiration of what our Holocaust survivors have given to our country and we stand united in our resolve to fight prejudice and discrimination in all its forms
And that is what we are doing here today, through coming together to remember. Lest we forget.
My sincere thanks to you all for joining us.
View photos from the event on Flickr
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