Holocaust victims must not be let ‘die twice’, says President

Michael D Higgins, at memorial service, says world has duty to remember those who died

The world has a duty not to allow those killed in the Holocaust to "die twice" by forgetting them, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Speaking at the annual Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration in Dublin, Mr Higgins said it was vital to remember and draw lessons from the horrors carried out by the Nazis as our direct human ties to the Holocaust began to fade.

“For some, the burden of that past is too heavy, too painful to remember. However, forgetting the past . . . can in itself be a harmful and damaging act,” he said. Through remembering we could “gain release from past wrongs and acquire also the resolution to anticipate revivals of hate and exclusion”.

Citing French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who said that to be forgotten was to die twice, Mr Higgins said there was a duty to preserve the memory of those who died “so shockingly and so tragically” and to commit to drawing lessons.


He paid tribute to the three Holocaust survivors – Suzi Diamond, Jan Kaminski and Tomi Reichental – who attended the commemoration which featured candle lighting and readings for millions killed by Nazis and collaborators.

Israeli ambassador

Among those who took part in the ceremony were Chief Justice

Susan Denham

, Minister for Justice

Frances Fitzgerald

, Minister for Foreign Affairs

Charlie Flanagan

, Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke and the Israeli ambassador to



Boaz Modai

. Former president Mary McAleese also attended the ceremony, organised by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland in association with the

Department of Justice and Equality


Dublin City Council


Ms Fitzgerald read the words of Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, who noted it was the survivors who first acknowledged their responsibility for passing on knowledge of the Holocaust. "The Shoah should never be diminished, denied, used for other ends or trivialised," she said.

Mr Flanagan said the ceremony honoured the memory of the 11 million men, women and children who were “systematically and brutally murdered” in the Holocaust.

“Those who lost their lives included six million Jews and five million more people murdered because of their nationality, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliations or religious beliefs,” he said.

Maurice Cohen, chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, recalled the Évian conference of July 1938 to consider the position of Jewish refugees. Of the 32 countries represented, including Ireland, none was willing to take in more refugees.

Torch of truth

The President said that while remembering the “very horrific” events, we must also remember there was light. “There is good to be found in the world, and there are good people who will stand against hatred, destruction and intolerance and will carry the torch of truth and light with them,” he said.

Pupils from three schools – Stratford College, Dublin; Ardscoil na Trionóide, Kildare; and St Michael's College, Dublin – read a scroll of victims' names.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times