A forgotten people HMD 2011

Archived  from my previous blog.

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I have picked this Untold story to share.  T4 is well documented – yet this programme designed specifically for the killing of thousands of disabled babies, infants and adults during the WWII is often untold or forgotten.

It is about those disabled people that were taken by bus into a beautiful historical building in Hadamar, Germany. It was a hospital. A place built to ‘care for the welfare of people’.  Disabled people were thought to be incapable of productive work (i.e. hard work) and this was the message given to the public in the papers and on film.  Work incapable disabled people were one of the first to go.  The treatment was the same for others with impairments,  for this place was a euthanasia centre.

” … make a clear promise to speak out against discrimination which judges some lives to be of less value than others today.”

[HMD 2011]

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Last year I went to Liberty Park in Overloon, Holland.

How far will we go to keep or win back our freedom?

It is here where visitors can look around the National War and Resistance Museum and Marshall Museum.   The park, the site of one of the heaviest tank battles, has a message – one that is relevant to each one of us today – freedom cannot be taken for granted.  It invites us to think about war and oppression. How far will we go to keep or win back our freedom? It was hard to make it into the door without choking  up.

I wondered about my own freedom and how much my life is valued?

As I write this I ponder over the current budget cuts that take away the liberating welfare support or health care disabled people rely on to survive.  In the UK it seems society values us less than ever before. Oppression and injustice is never far away. Whatever format it takes – it still damages lives and takes lives.

I read the exhibits, I looked at the photos of death, destruction, fear, hope and survival. I sat in the quiet, reflective memorial room. Where are the disabled people of Holland and elsewhere who were tortured and gassed, who is telling their story?  How many people have sat in this place and remembered our forgotten people?

Hidden stories

On the way round we saw the graphic images and videos of genocide to present day.  In Overloon they are not afraid to show it as it is.  It’s not for the faint hearted but worse not to look.

Life size photographs of children in their mother’s arms – both slumped on the street, dead from gas attacks in recent wars.  The video of survivors  with skin blown of their bodies getting help in the years after the Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  These are the images that stick in our minds, that make us tearful.

 

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However, much injustice is out of sight.  Travelling around Holland, looking at pretty houses and out onto fields of flowers and parkland it is hard to imagine the stories that unfolded in those very buildings and fields.  It is a reminder that injustice and denial of freedoms and liberty is often disguised, going on unnoticed for far to long, in front of our eyes.

Sometimes we open our eyes and see it happening – yet people do nothing. People knew what happened in that hospital – few spoke out and fewer still did anything about it.

Do you speak out against inequality and discrimination against others?

Injustice is part of my history as a disabled person  – and relevant to my life today.

It is relevant to all of us today.

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Never forget.

When I met genocide survivors

Meeting survivors of genocide – my blog for Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 has now moved to this page.

 

I have been reflecting again this week on why HMD is so important. I know, in a small way, how hurtful words can be. How powerful they can be – to make people live in fear or to give comfort and hope.

Please pledge to speak out against hatred and hurtful words – whether it’s cruel words on Twitter, Facebook, at work or spoken by people you work or live with.

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Visit HMD.org.uk


HMD 2012

The theme this year “asks us to think about the rights, responsibility and duty we all have to speak up when we see or hear something which we believe to be wrong. It challenges us to learn about what happens when we don’t speak out and what can happen when we do use our voice.”

First I read.

Then I watched.

After I cried.

Now in my weakness I am strong.

I am alive

I can and will speak out against the path to genocide.

When I met survivors of genocide

In 1988 I first learned about the Holocaust as a high school student. Genocide was something consigned to history, or so I thought  – but it wasn’t. The Guatemalan Civil War, the regime in Chile, the Lebanon massacre were to come.

Then came Rwanda – the second time I had heard the word genocide and the first time I had witnessed some of the most graphic news footage of the time.  About a year later Srebenica in Bosnia… and this is where my story starts.

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When I volunteered for the Red Cross, many of those fleeing Bosnia and surrounding countries were coming to the UK hidden in lorries etc. I would hear people complaining about asylum seekers and making it clear these people weren’t welcome. I was proud to be in an organisation which was world renowned for providing help based on the grounds of neutrality and in a none-judgemental way. I will never forget how my friends would be called out to set up beds and treat the wounded.

[Image, above, Bosnian women grieving]

People arrived with bullet holes in them, their families missing or dead. They arrived not knowing what would happen, fearful of whether they would be sent back to die.  They looked at my friend’s uniform bearing the Red Cross – a symbol of protection bringing the look of relief – Krissy Cross they said.  It didn’t take a translator to work out that comfort, food and some reassurance was going to be needed.

I got involved with a First Aid course for Albanian people, refugees, who were staying in the UK and spent long hours working with a translator I had to source. I went armed with all our handouts, but as it happened, they had very good English and a translator in attendance by that time and my efforts went unappreciated!  After all the terrible things, here was a sign of hope, a new life.

I feel angry that people in my community were speaking the language of hatred against these people, wanting to send them back where they came from.  It was the power of hurtful words, exclusion and stereotyping that had contributed to changing their life back home into one of terror and massacre in the first place – the first stage on the path that led to genocide.

I leave you with the following to contemplate.

*Resources from Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

“Many people consider tackling the issues of equality and fairness to be the province of anti-discrimination law, of advocacy groups, or of government, to be addressed by discrete, often marginal programmes of activity directed at particular groups. But the greatest impacts on the opportunities open to individuals are made by everyday decisions in every part of society, most of which apply equally to everyone.”

Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2010.