Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to honour and remember the millions of Jews, Roma, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and many others who fell victim to the horrors of Nazi persecution. Championing inclusion and tolerance towards others serves to honour their memory, says the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
The hardships and worries caused by the long-running COVID-19 pandemic are creating the conditions for intolerance to spread.
Early on, it triggered an increase in racist and xenophobic attacks, particularly towards Asians. Some people blame Jews for creating and spreading the virus. Some even claim Jews use the pandemic for profit.
Even before the pandemic, Europe-wide surveys point to widespread intolerance towards ethnic minorities, Jews, Roma and LGBTI people.
Only 1 in 2 Europeans would feel comfortable with their child loving a Roma person, for example.
Almost 2 in 5 Jews surveyed by FRA consider emigrating because they do not feel safe as Jews in their own countries.
Not only that, Holocaust survivors are particularly at risk from the virus given their age.
This becomes problematic. The number of survivors diminishes at a time when 1 in 2 Europeans believe that Holocaust denial is a problem in their country. It reduces the number of people who can recount the horrors of the past first hand.
Holocaust Remembrance Day so should act as a springboard to promote understanding between diverse communities as a guard against intolerance.
It should be a poignant time to learn from the past and build for a better, more inclusive future.
It underlines the importance of strengthening Holocaust education, celebrating diversity, and raising awareness to create a better understanding of how intolerance affects people and society as a whole.
In the morning of 27 January 1945, soldiers liberated the Auschwitz extermination camp. At that time, it still held some 7,000 prisoners. But over the course of its existence, over a million people deported to Auschwitz died there.