Dublin ceremony honours millions of Holocaust victims

Rise of extremist language and politics across Europe ‘profoundly worrying’, says President Higgins

The memory of the Holocaust challenges the peoples of Europe "to identify and confront hate speech, President Michael D Higgins has said.

It is “profoundly worrying” to witness the emergence and rise of extremist language and politics across the streets of Europe and beyond, the President told the annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Dublin’s Mansion House on Sunday commemorating victims of the Holocaust. This rhetoric “seeks to exploit what is often a loss of trust, but much more frequently informs a presentation of the ‘other’ that invokes fear, exclusion and rejection,” he said.

“As anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, homophobia and intolerance are once again on the rise in parts of Europe and many parts of the world, we must remember the Holocaust collectively, ensure the lessons it taught the world so cruelly are heard and understood, and work together to ensure that hatred and the inhumanity of anti-migrant feeling, for example, are not allowed to spread their dark shadow across Europe and the world.”

The President, noting that fewer and fewer survivors of the Holocaust remain to tell their stories, warned that “dwindling Holocaust knowledge, as part of a dangerous amnesia as to sources of hatred, is driving global anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred. This is why it is vital that awareness of the Holocaust, all of the forces of hate, exclusion and collusive silences that gave rise to Fascism in Europe in the 1930s should be a part of the history curriculum across Europe and elsewhere if we are to truly learn, to internalise the necessary gains, the lessons of history.


“We must ensure that every generation appreciates the shelter that a shared commitment to international law provides for us all of the limitless, enriching possibilities that can be achieved from a shared humanity practiced with responsibility and co-operation.”

Hate speech

Minister for Equality Roderic O'Gorman, whose department co-hosted the event with Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, echoed the President's warning about the dangers of hate speech.

The commemoration “recalls the millions of innocent Jewish men, women and children and other victims of the Holocaust, who were persecuted and lost their lives because of their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliations or their religious beliefs”, he said.

“In this time of misinformation, it is important that the Holocaust and the discrimination, hatred and disrespect for our fellow human beings that preceded it, is not allowed to gather momentum again.”

Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland said the ceremony serves as a reminder "that we all have a key role in standing up against violence and discrimination, to stand for equality and respect for all our fellow citizens".

The Dublin event marks 80 years since the Wannsee Conference in which the Nazis sanctioned the killing of millions of Jews across Europe, including 4,000 Jewish people listed as living in Ireland at the time.

The audience heard contributions from Holocaust survivors Suzi Diamond, Tomi Reichental and Joe Veselsky as well as Irish children and grandchildren of survivors.

In a recorded contribution, Dublin-based Ms Diamond (80), a native of Hungary who with her late brother Terry survived the Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps after their family were deported there, urged young people to speak out about hate speech, bullying and Holocaust denial.

“What we experienced took place in the middle of the last century, far too distant for young people today to understand the enormity of what happened. Six million Jews murdered because of their faith, more than the population of Ireland. I urge young people to speak out about hate speech, about bullying, and about Holocaust denial. We implore them to tell our story and keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.”

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times