Watch: ‘Why we have to remember the Holocaust every year’
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Watch: ‘Why we have to remember the Holocaust every year’

The director of Berlin's Anne Frank Centre is in Malta to share her story

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

The worst genocide in human history might have happened 75 years ago, but its impact lingers on, according to Patrick Siegele, director of the Anne Frank Centre in Berlin.

The devastation caused by the Holocaust taught the world that stereotyping could turn into discrimination, racism and antisemitism, which in turn could lead to the murder of a whole population, Mr Siegele told the Times of Malta ahead of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He referred to a recent study by the Fundamental Rights Agency which shows that 90 per cent of Jews in nine countries observe that antisemitism is on the rise, while 34 per cent avoid visiting Jewish events or sites because they did not feel safe. 

“Although ideal, I don’t believe we will ever live in a society without discrimination. Human rights will always be threatened and I’m convinced that this will be an ongoing struggle in any democracy. That is why we have to remember the Holocaust every year.”

This week Mr Siegele toured schools in Malta at the invitation of the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society, sharing Anne Frank’s story in a bid to humanise the theoretical issues of discrimination and human rights.

He noted that the story of Anne Frank was also a story of people who offered help – people took a stand despite the dangers. If it was possible to defend human rights during a time of harsh dictatorship, then it was definitely possible to take a stand nowadays, Mr Siegele added.

As keynote speaker at the Holocaust Remembrance Day at San Anton Palace, Mr Siegele meanwhile noted that the impact of the Nazi regime injustices has lingered to this day.

Patrick Siegele, director of the Anne Frank Centre in Berlin. Photo: Matthew MirabelliPatrick Siegele, director of the Anne Frank Centre in Berlin. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

One “profoundly sad” example is that of LGBT men: about 10,000 men, mostly German and Austrian, were deported to concentration camps, including Auschwitz. 

Far from receiving any kind of compensation or recognition of what they had gone through, those who survived continued to face criminalisation afterwards.

Sexual relations between men remained punishable in Germany until 1969. Only in 2017 did these men, whether they were sentenced under the Nazis or in post-war Germany, receive the right to compensation, a change that came too late for most, he said. 

The story of one of these men – Wolfgang Lauinger – is told at the Berlin centre. He died in December 2017 aged 99, soon after his first compensation claim was rejected.

Tomorrow the world marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945. For years the remembrance was largely confined to Israel, Germany and the US, where most of the survivors live. 

The UN declared January 27 as the International Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Holocaust in 2005. Nowadays, the remembrance alliance consists of 31 member countries, including Malta.

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