It has been more than sixty years since the end of the Second World War. More than six decades since the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews and the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Each year we have remembered that event. We have recalled the horrors that occurred, the genocide of the millions of innocent men, women and children, and we have vowed to never let it happen again. We claim to have learned from our mistakes. However, the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur speak otherwise. We don't need to think back 60 years to see such atrocities; we need only turn on the news.
On January 27, Holocaust Memorial Day, the world will come together to celebrate the liberation at Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Individuals and communities alike will reflect on that dark time and try to understand how such things happened.
Towards the end of last year I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. I was selected through the Holocaust Educational Trust to act as both a witness and an ambassador for an organisation whose focus doesn't start and finish with a religious perspective, but has a far wider challenge, that of awareness and specifically awareness and action by all.
Society makes mistakes, of that we are only all too aware. Sometimes these mistakes are minor and easily rectified, but too often history shows us that the human race has allowed minor errors of judgement to grow into larger, more dangerous movements. In the Second World War these mistakes were allowed to grow and the result was the catastrophic campaign of hate and genocide aimed at the Jewish religion.
"Action not reaction" is a phrase we've all heard before. Perhaps if we all took a little action it would help us live in a better, more understanding and more tolerant society.
At the age of 18 we are all entitled to vote. This is a fundamental and easily exercised right that allows us to have an influence in the way our country is managed. It is, therefore, imperative that we all take full advantage of our entitlement and vote for what we believe is right. People power is real; if enough people vote for change then that change will happen. Never let it be said "I only have one vote, what difference can that make?" - people died to give us the right to freedom, so we should not disregard their sacrifice. We live in a democratic society where each and every vote cast has an impact on how the government distributes our choices through society.
Additionally, let us not forget that by electing government swe are not only choosing how our own country is managed, but also, and equally as important, we are making a choice on how our government reacts to issues further afield in the world.
We are fortunate to have an education system that is unbiased, far reaching and available to all. We must ensure we take full advantage of this, to learn and challenge the world we live in, because it is only through the education of future generations that we can hope to better the world. It is through education that we can share ideas and promote tolerance and acceptance in society. We should all strive for a world where gender, race and creed play no part in the decisions we make.
So, this Holocaust Memorial Day, let us all remember the Holocaust, and remember our part in society. Let us learn from our mistakes and take responsibility to ensure we do what we know is right. Let us all help to make the world a better place.
Olivia Sales is a pupil at Valentines High School in Gants Hill.
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