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Holocaust Memorial Day 2017: How Can Life Go On?

27/01/2017 09:06
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

What do you hear when you recall your early years?

"The sound of my father screaming in the night was the sound of my childhood." This is what one of the respondents to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's survey of survivors and their relatives told us. The horrors of the Holocaust didn't fade away as liberation came, bodies healed and new homes were found. Instead, the difficulties of its aftermath have lasted years - and for some, decades.

We at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust wanted to explore this idea for this year's Holocaust Memorial Day. What are these challenges, and what do they mean for us as we grapple with creating a safe society today?

Survivors of the Holocaust, and of more recent genocides, have had to come to terms with their past, and rebuild their lives around unimaginable loss. Some have done so in the UK, starting with nothing, having missed years of education due to the ideology of perpetrator regimes. But, despite these considerable hardships, many have also faced hostility and incomprehension.

Indeed, 27% of respondents to our survey have faced more than just a lack of understanding - they have faced abuse based on their faith or ethnicity. Given what they've all been through, it's shocking that anti-Semitism and other abuse based on faith and ethnicity still continue. Var Ashe Houston, a survivor of the genocide in Cambodia, struggled with insomnia and triggers from everyday sights - yet was told: "There is no room for you here. Go back to where you came from."

This should make us all stop and think about how we behave to people whose stories we may not know - and on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January), we should listen and share these stories. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's website www.hmd.org.uk has life stories from people most affected by the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and more recent genocides. I invite you all to read Var's life story, and the life stories of so many other people.

Dealing with loss, learning about the past, assisting survivors - these are issues of rebuilding, and we can all play a part in making sure that life does indeed go on.

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