As the UK marked Holocaust Memorial Day, 26 January, I was privileged to hear some deeply moving speeches at the Anne Frank Trust annual dinner in London, all timely and sobering warnings of the danger of complacency in the face of the underlying and continuing threat of racism and hate crime.
Brendan Cox, partner of murdered MP Jo Cox and international campaigner for the rights of refugees, spoke movingly about her loss and the need to be vigilant against xenophobia and racial hatred in the modern day.
The Anne Frank Trust lunch guests also heard from inspiring teachers and from communities secretary Sajid Javid MP, all speaking from personal experience of racism and intolerance. “In 2017 we cannot look the other way,” said Javid, “we all have a moral duty to stand up for hatred.”
Single candles were lit on each table in memory of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and other genocides, and representatives on stage from those who suffered in the Rwandan genocide and ethnic persecution in the Middle East reminded us all of the global and indiscriminate threat that racial intolerance poses daily.
Susan Pollack, MBE, a retired grandmother living today in North London, later issued a stark warning about the importance of learning the lessons from history. She was a 13-year-old girl when was taken from her home in Hungary, loaded into a cattle truck and transported to Auschwitz death camp.
She said: “We’re not talking about barbarians. We’re not talking about primitive society. The Germans were well-advanced, educated, progressive. Maybe civilisation is just veneer-thin. We all need to be very careful about any hate-propaganda.
“This is very important. It starts as a small stream, but then it has the potential to erupt – and when it does, it’s too late to stop it.”
I am proud to say many members of the UK events industry were represented at the Anne Frank Trust event, including a large IMEX delegation and BVEP chair Michael Hirst (one of the founders of the Trust), and they joined a 300-plus audience in remembering those who suffered at the hands of racist oppressors, and by remembering they helped remind a new generation of the danger posed by passivity in the face of ever present and even resurgent ultra-nationalism and bigotry.
More information: www.annefrank.org.uk