International Holocaust Day reminds us that we must reach out to each other

A Lib Dem Lord, Aldermen and Councillors were all at Liverpool Town Hall today to commemorate the genocides of the 20th Century as well as those taking place in the 21st and vow to prevent them happening again

Liberal Democrats were out in force today at the Liverpool Town Hall at the service to commemorate those who died in the genocides of Rwanda; Poland; Germany and elsewhere in massacres that continue to this day.

We came to the event today particularly because although those specific events are in the past similar events, albeit smaller, are happening this very day in parts of the Middle East and Africa and Burma. People picked on because they have the ‘wrong’ coloured skin; the ‘wrong’ faith; the ‘wrong’ sexual orientation. Sometimes they are just in the way as warlords seek to gain territory. Their ‘wrongness’ is just an excuse to move or slaughter them.

Sometimes, it is a question of financial exploitation. Look at the situation in Burma where for generations people of different faiths have lived together, usually but not always, in harmony. Here greedy eyes wish to take over territories and exploit for their own clan, caste of faith.

We can now look much closer to home to find problems getting worse and friction increasing between peoples. Across continental Europe extremist parties are exploiting financial difficulties to create racial tensions. From Italy to France from Germany to Holland racial and social prejudice is being used to stoke up fear and loathing.

Across the Atlantic things are just as bad. The words and actions of Trump and his red neck bully boy supporters are reigniting the Ku Klux Klan and similar bodies. Build the Wall to keep out a handful of foreigners who are judged by Trump to be the major source of crime in the Country’s inner cities.

It would be comfortable to say that all these things are happening somewhere else. But that would be so wrong. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Small numbers of pathetic and misguided would be ‘yellow jackets’ are seeking to march through the streets to stir up trouble. Much of this has been stoked by BREXIT. Massive pleas were made to stop immigration with no understanding of what an immigrant actually was.

I love the immigrants who might save my life in the NHS. I love immigrants who help research at our Universities to provide us with jobs. I adore the immigrants who will come and spend back breaking hours picking fruit and veg in our fields to ensure we have cheap food. I welcome the immigrants who bring their talents in all fields to improve the quality of lives in so many ways.

As I look how this works whether it be the Nazis of 1930s Germany or the racists of 2019 Britain it seems that there are three elements:

  1. People and communities who have been left behind by technological and economic change. These people lash out because that is all they can do. They have had a poor education, live in poor housing and see no obvious way forward for them and their families.
  2. Politicians who wish to exploit this ‘underclass’ for their own ends; and
  3. Politicians; academics; clerics and other movers in society who are not prepared to stand up and be counted in a fight against the exploiters and their adherents.

All of this can be summed up in the famous poem by Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

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

That tells me that we must all speak out. We must ensure a better sharing out of the Country’s and the World’s resources so that people do not despair of their lack of potential. We must hold hands with people of other skin colours, faiths and sexual orientation or beliefs and say this man is my brother, this man is my sister.

Perhaps today we can all take a little time to think of what International Holocaust Day means. Perhaps we can learn from the past to protect our future. Perhaps, above all, we can resolve today to speak out for anyone who is ‘different’.

If that happens today will indeed have been a good day.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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