Keeping alive memories of the Holocaust is a vital part of the commitment to prevent such things happening again. Cambridge has a proud part in this, as the City Council funds each January a public commemoration, where the centrepiece is testimonials from survivors.
Sadly world events demonstrate this commitment needs renewing all the time. It is excellent that at the Cambridge event testimonies have been heard in recent years of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and genocide in Rwanda.
After the events of the past weeks I would very much like to see next year’s Cambridge commemoration include testimony from the people of Gaza. In common with many, I have been shocked by the recent atrocities there against ordinary civilians including many children, resulting in an enormous death toll. This has been compounded by the systematic destruction of the means of civilised life. The victims have been a whole people, already impoverished and stateless, who are marked out only by where they live (over which they have little choice), and by their ethnicity (over which they have none).
I understand that this maybe an uncomfortable request for some of those closely associated with the suffering of the Nazi holocaust. It is not intended to give offence. But the fact this type of suggestion comes at all shows the importance of broad perspective to current events as well as historic ones. It is not about the grand politics of the Middle East, it is about the value we put on the lives of ordinary people.
I see this as a critical step to keep fresh the moral intensity of our revulsion for acts of genocide and to be clear that it is not an issue in the ownership of any one people.
Accordingly, I have contacted the organisers of next January’s Holocaust Memorial event in Cambridge, and put this on the table for their consideration. I am sincerely hoping that they will be able to take this on board. If it challenges and broadens realisation about our shared values, well isn’t that what the event is for?