Stand up and speak out on Holocaust Memorial Day
Posted Friday 27 January 2012
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, an annual event I had the privilege and honour of working to help establish over a decade ago. You might be thinking “well that’s very nice but what’s that got to do with me?” I’d like to think everything. It was not just an attack on Jews. It was an outright attack on humanity and on human rights.
Disabled people including people with mental health problems were targeted, along with Gypsy and Roma, gays and lesbians, black people, Jehovah’s witnesses, anyone deemed as an ‘asocial’, and the Polish and Slavic population. Nazi-led action resulted in the deaths of millions of people across Europe. The emotional impact on survivors and those who lost family during the Holocaust is still with us today.
Nazi persecution of people with mental health problems traces back to the 1930s where numerous policies and legislation was passed resulting in forced sterilisation and prevention of marriage. Persecution sky-rocketed from 1939 when the Nazis carried out their T4 programme – the killing of disabled children and adults. Some, like Robert Wagemann were lucky enough to escape. Many others were not – murdered in the experimental gas chambers tested on disabled people, before being rolled out across Europe’s death camps. By the end of the war, around 250,000 disabled people were murdered under the Nazi regime.
As a result of the Holocaust, Britain played an instrumental role in developing international legislation designed to protect people’s human rights. Those same human rights that are so often parodied by today’s media and politicians.
Holocaust Memorial Day lays down a challenge for us all to use the lessons of the past. Genocide doesn’t just happen. It’s a steady process which can begin if prejudice, discrimination and hatred are not checked and prevented.
These things still exist on our streets today. But so do people who speak out about them. Think of inspirational people like Doreen Lawrence speaking out about the murder of her son, Stephen, and the fight for justice that still continues. Or of the thousands of people who are helping to tackle mental health discrimination head on through Mind and Rethink Mental Illness’s Time to Change campaign.
It’s takes courage to tell your story, whether you’re a Holocaust survivor or you're living with a mental health problem.
We must use the memory of those whose voices were silenced to inspire us to speak out today. Your voice can be powerful, whether you stand up on your own or as part of a movement. That’s why I ask you to use your voice to “stand up and speak out” against hatred, discrimination and prejudice, and sign the pledge to show your support. Use your voice to create a safer, better future for us all.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns
It's time to talk
You don't need to be an expert to talk about mental health, just a few small words can make a big difference.
Make a pledge and help end the silence around mental health.
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