The Holocaust Memorial Vigil was held in the Sheffield Winter Gardens on the last Thursday in January. It was a very moving occasion. The Assistant Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Tim Ellis spoke at the event.
This is his very thought provoking speech:
“Many years ago, before the Wall came down, I was a guest of the Lutheran Church in the city of Berlin. We were there to look at how the Church could support young people studying in the Further Education context. It was instructive to see the fear, distress, secrecy and subterfuge that building a wall to divide a people brought! But, we also were given the opportunity to visit some of the sites associated with Nazi atrocity-Plotzensee, where hundreds of dissidents were murdered in one night on meat hooks in a former butcher’s store; Hitler’s bunker at the Reichstag, and more. One place stood out for me … in the middle of a gently wooded clearing, verdant and leafy, a memorial to a Nazi massacre – the butchering of hundreds. It seemed there was total silence, and no birdsong. I have heard others say the same about Auschwitz and Dachau and other terrible places.
“The proper response to holocaust can only be silence. We are mute in the knowledge that humanity can sink to such depths; dumbfounded that individual human beings can perpetrate such crimes; wordless to describe the extent of our revulsion, fear and hopelessness; speechless in our recognition that the small seeds of this horror lurk even in the corners of our own souls; we are incapable of framing sentences which will bring comfort and hope and which will describe our feelings of despair at the cruelty – the mundanity of this great evil.
“And yet, as difficult as it is, we must frame words and thoughts to address what happened so many years ago, the effects of which remain, potent and malign, in our hearts and lives, in our communities and in our national lives. Speak out we must, because a succession of new, innocent and future-orientated generations of humanity, like blank pages, must have written on them the memory of what humanity can do to its kin when the political circumstances are right, when hatred seeks scapegoats and when violence, murder and torture are validated as a means to an end. We must frame sentences that alert the current family of humanity on this earth to the fact that holocaust still exists – it is alive and active in the midst of this global village. We must vocalise our critiques of history, of our political systems, of the policies of those in positions of power and leadership over us, so we can root out the seeds of genocide and their potential to grow today. We must cry out that this must never happen again.
“But we must also speak out for Truth: we have entered a time of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative truth’: a time when fact is manipulated for personal and political gain. Google ‘Holocaust’ and, along with historical fact, comes the deniers’ fiction that this Shoah never happened.
“Silence is the proper response to an evil we cannot comprehend or encompass, but powerful words are the way we communicate our sense of offence to each other and our steely determination that new generations will continue to be watchful and know the Truth. And the Truth will cast its piercing light on those places and people where holocaust is actual, and potential, today.”