Holocaust Memorial Day is a poignant and powerful reminder of the dangers of allowing prejudice and hatred to go unchallenged, First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have said.
They were among a number of people who featured in the annual regional commemoration hosted by the Executive Office in collaboration with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and Belfast City Council.
Keynote speaker was Eva Clarke, who was born in Mauthausen concentration camp in April 1945.
Fifteen members of Eva’s family, including her father and three grandparents, were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
She said: “Holocaust Memorial Day gives people a chance to come together to reflect on what happened to families like mine.
“I hope it makes us all think of ways to ensure prejudice in any form is challenged and that we become aware of the power and impact of our choices today.”
Mr Givan said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is a time for us all to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
“The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 is ‘One Day’. Through our collective acts of remembrance, we honour the survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experiences to ensure that, one day in the future, such atrocities never happen again.”
Ms O’Neill said: “The Holocaust is a powerful reminder of what happens when prejudice and bigotry are allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged.
“And this commemoration is an opportunity for us to remember all those who have suffered because of intolerance, hatred, racism and bigotry.
“Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone — people of all ages, of all faiths and none; people from all cultures and backgrounds, and all walks of life. And its message is now more important than ever, as prejudice and the language of hate are on the rise in so many places across the world.”
During the event, which was pre-recorded for online broadcast due to the public health situation, Nazi survivor Walter Sekules lit the candle of remembrance and hope.
Walter’s family were forced to flee Austria in the late 1930s and were held in a number of Soviet detention camps before resettling in Co Down after the Second World War.
Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl also spoke about the importance of standing up to hatred. “Holocaust Memorial Day exists to ensure we remember and learn from the atrocities of the past,” she said.