Holocaust Memorial Day 2015
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Holocaust Memorial Day 2015
27 January 2015
Thanks to South Ayrshire Council for organising tonight’s event, and thanks to all of you for coming. It’s especially good to see so many school students here.
I want to start by acknowledging the work done by our other speakers. Ben Freeman’s organisation – From Yesterday to Tomorrow – does a huge amount to encourage and empower young people to challenge discrimination.
The two keynote speakers, as you heard, are Ela Wassberger and Hasan Hasanovic. Hasan and Ela also spoke at Kyle Academy earlier today, in a session which was made available online to every secondary school in Scotland.
Your willingness to share your stories about your past – stories which go beyond what most people could imagine enduring – is absolutely inspirational. It’s an incredibly moving and effective way of achieving the aim of this year’s memorial day – Keeping the Memory Alive.
The purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day – and the reason it’s essential to keep the memory alive - is that if we understand the very worst consequences of intolerance and prejudice, we are less likely to accept them in today’s society.
Remembering the holocaust, and subsequent genocides, is an honour we owe to the victims – and it’s also a duty we owe to ourselves. Thinking about specific individuals – the lives they led, the choices they made, the fates they endured – is one way in which we can start to comprehend the horror of what happened.
The importance of learning and remembering is also at the heart of the “Lessons from Auschwitz” project, which the Scottish Government supports. Over the last 6 years, more than 2,000 Scottish school students have visited Auschwitz, and shared their experiences with their schools and with the wider community.
I’m delighted that we’ll hear from four Kyle Academy students a bit later this evening.
At around this time last year, Ruth Laird and William Seaborne, from Queen Anne High School in Dumfermline, spoke to the Scottish Parliament about Lessons from Auschwitz. They said it had “opened their eyes to the lives of others”.
It’s a good description of one of the most important purposes of Holocaust Memorial Day. If we open our eyes to the lives of others - if we put ourselves in their shoes, and demonstrate empathy and understanding – we’ll be better placed to contribute to the tolerant, diverse, inclusive society that all of us all want to see.
We all know that Scotland’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths.
We are proud to be a home to people of all faiths and none. The tartan of our national identity has many colours and many strands. And we can also take pride in some important recent milestones for equality - for example the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal.
But we can never be complacent. The events in Paris three weeks ago are an awful reminder of the importance of tackling anti-semitism and all other forms of discrimination and prejudice.
And here is still more to do in Scotland, for as long as anyone has to suffer abuse or even assault because of their race, their religion, their sexuality or any other part of their identity.
One step we can take – just one step, but a very important one - to create the Scotland we want to see; is to remember, reflect on and honour the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides.
That’s why we support projects such as Lessons from Auschwitz; it’s why the efforts of individuals such as Ben, Ela and Hasan are so important; and it’s why the Scottish Government is proud to be able to support this Holocaust Memorial Day Service.