65 Years on: National Holocaust Memorial Day


Pause for Thought – BBC Radio 2 – 26th January 2010 – “A Future and a Hope”


Imagine the scene: Poland sixty-five years ago today. Just another cold, grey January day, like any other. The sun didn’t really rise over Auschwitz on this morning – but then it seemed to have set on this place a long time ago, never to rise again.

Then imagine that, somewhere in a corner of this grey scene, there is a young girl staring at the horizon. A combination of determination, luck and a refusal to give up hope means she can still imagine a future beyond this place, even though for almost three years, her world has stopped at the barbed wire fence.

As she stares into the distance beyond that fence, her mind fills with images of her past – family meals with her grandfather, her time at university, her childhood days … And she closes her eyes to imagine a future outside this place, one in which she might have a family of her own, see her children go to university, raise grandchildren…

All around her is despair, in this place that seems to symbolise the death of all hope for her, for her people, for humanity. But still, on this grey January day exactly sixty-five years ago today, she allows herself to imagine a future that none in this place would even dare to dream of.

But in places where all hope seems to have died, the human capacity to retain a vision of a future still remains. In places of the greatest despair, human beings can still retain their dignity, their humanity and their faith. We see it even now, as people emerge from the rubble of collapsed buildings, clinging to life against all odds. We see it in our response to such disasters, we recognise a common link that unites us all. And what unites us is our refusal to give up, even in times of great darkness and despair.

Sixty-five years ago, the young girl still sits, imagining, dreaming, hoping. It is January 26th 1945. She does not know that tomorrow Russian troops will enter the gates at which she stares. They will open the eyes of the world to the horror that humankind can inflict upon itself. But they will also allow the dreams of the young girl who stared at the horizon sixty-five years ago today to come true…