Holocaust memorial service
"The six o`clock news is the most brutal programme on television - and we do not even turn it off. Each day, murder and destruction flicker across the screen as part of our home life. Is it any wonder that we have learned to live comfortably with the knowledge of the death of the six million? We can keep a body count of our own, right in the privacy of our living room".
The words were penned by Albert Friedlander and they were read at the Holocaust memorial service in the District Reform Synagogue last Saturday. They are as relevant today as they were on the day that they were written.
God only knows how television would have covered the holocaust at the time. The TV generation, born universally of the Coronation in 1953, arrived only in time to graphically report events in Northern Ireland with bulletins commencing "Last night another soldier......." Since then we have become inured to the conflicts, pestilence, genocide and natural disaster that has spread though famines in Africa, floods in the Far East, Earthquakes worldwide. We have had ringside seats at wars in Vietnam, the Falklands, in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, terrorist attacks worldwide We have seen the grim real-time images of the destruction and collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and the gruesome aftermath of the London tube and bus bombings. We have watched the coffins arrive at Brize Norton and intruded on the privacy of the bereaved while, simultaneously, the images of further death and devastation are transmitted `live` across our screens from the streets of Beirut today.
Is it small wonder that a generation of, particularly, post-television human beings find ourselves inoculated against the visual trauma that ought to send any living, breathing, sentient mortal into clinical shock? Is it surprising that we need to be reminded that the mass slaughter of six million people under some of the vilest conditions ever willfully created by mankind still matters.? With Friedland`s "body count in the privacy of our living room" an ever-present and available reality it is hard enough to prevent the images of today`s dying and dead from becoming the victims of "compassion fatigue" without pausing to remember the casualties of previous wars.
But pause we must and remember we must if we are, as a human race, to stand any chance of overcoming the evils wrought in the name of colour and, more significantly, creed. That is why the memory of the holocaust and all that it stood for and all that, unremembered, it could still represent, is so important.
It might be intoned of the dead of any faith and in any war that
"We mourn for all that died with them: their goodness and their wisdom, which could have done so much to ennoble and enrich humanity. We mourn for the genius and the wit that died, the learning and the laughter that were lost."
The blood of every race does, indeed, cry out from the ground. As the Rabbi said last Saturday:
It has never in our history been more important that we live in harmony with our neighbours". Our elected leaders and those with even a modicum of power and responsibility - which in a very real sense means all of us- need to focus on that fact.