The speech made by Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP for Swansea East, in the House of Commons on 28 January 2021.
Every year across the country, we come together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day: to remember those who have been lost; to hear the retelling of stories from those who have survived; and to reflect on what we can do to stop such atrocities taking place again. I thank the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for the fantastic resources and ceremonies they have provided to ensure that the memorial is still happening safely in 2021.
Thinking of this year’s theme—“Be the light in the darkness”—I think of those glimmers and moments of hope brought about through unimaginable bravery and courage. I came across Madeline Deutsch’s story in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum collection, where she shared the sacrifices that her mother made to keep her safe during their time in the camps in the second world war. Madeline spoke of how her mother would give up her scraps of bread in order to keep her child safe and fed through the hardest and most trying of circumstances. Although we are aware of how the Nazi regime targeted their evil at all Jews, along with those who did not fit the idea of Aryan, today I want to talk about the treatment and experience of women in camps.
Ravensbrück was the largest Nazi concentration camp established for women. Over 120,000 women had been imprisoned in Ravensbrück by the time it was liberated in 1945. Those women faced not just the harsh reality of the camps; they could also face forced medical experiments and sterilisations, be made to work in makeshift brothels or were murdered. In what must have been the very darkest of times, we still hear stories such as the sacrifices that Madeline Deutsch’s mother made to keep her child fed and safe.
Although we know that identity-based persecution often affects all those who fall into the targeted groups, women’s experiences during genocide can be unique. Today we remember those women who lost their lives or experienced persecution not only in the holocaust, but in the genocides that have sadly followed since. Let us remember the light and hope shown by men and women; let us remember the sacrifices made by fathers and mothers; and let these stories show us that in the very darkest of times, there can always be light.