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Tears flow as world remembers the Holocaust

Belfast joins other cities in commemorating victims of Nazi genocide in World War II

By Lesley Houston

Published 28/01/2016

Rabbi David Singer at the service for Holocaust Memorial Day at the War Memorial in Belfast yesterday
Rabbi David Singer at the service for Holocaust Memorial Day at the War Memorial in Belfast yesterday
The strain tells on Rabbi David Singer
The strain tells on Ruth Kohner
Artwork in Magilligan Prison

Heads bowed as one yesterday as people showed their solidarity with the Jewish community by marking Holocaust Memorial Day.

First Minister Arlene Foster singled out the Nazi genocide during the Second World War as the worst evil in history as events took place worldwide.

"In the course of human events, the monumental evil of the Holocaust stands alone," Mrs Foster said, before also speaking movingly of the plight of the Jews, Gypsies, the disabled and other minorities under the Nazis.

Holocaust Memorial Day was initiated not only to remember the six million Jews who perished in the death camps, but also to mark subsequent genocides.

The commemoration was introduced in 2000, taking place annually on January 27 - the same date that the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated in 1945.

Mrs Foster said: "The path of darkness trod by Germany and her allies during that time must be taught, learned, understood and studied again and again by each successive generation so that such things cannot ever happen again.

"Ordinary people - people with jobs, families, people who went to church on Sunday and played with their children - participated in the mass slaughter of millions. They did so fully conscious of what they were doing.

"Almost every organ of the Nazi State was in one way or another connected or involved in the systematic persecution and ultimately murder of Jews, Romani, disabled people and other minority groups."

At Belfast's War Memorial, one Nazi refugee - Ruth Kohner (79) - spoke emotionally of that terrifying time more than 70 years ago in front of guests including Rabbi David Singer and Deputy Lord Mayor Guy Spence.

In Lisburn around 300 members of the Jewish community were visited at the Island Centre by Stormont junior ministers Jennifer McCann and Emma Pengelly.

Ms McCann said: "We must play our part in creating a society of equals which values tolerance, diversity and freedom and challenges oppression in all its forms."

Elsewhere, the unusual setting of Magilligan Prison was the backdrop of a special display marking the day.

Huts within the walls of the prison were converted to show images - created by prisoners - and audiovisual displays of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in which millions of people died.

Gary Milling, deputy governor at Magilligan, said: "It is important we honour the survivors of these atrocities and learn the lessons of their experiences to challenge hatred and discrimination today.

"The buildings at Magilligan we are using for the display are similar to the type which would have been in use during the Second World War, and these empty spaces will be filled with the voices, stories and pictures of victims and survivors."

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