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Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness

Monday 27th January 2014 marked Holocaust Memorial Day when we remember the victims of the Holocaust and of genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Darfur.

“The Holocaust was the murder by Nazi Germany of six million Jews. While the Nazi persecution of the Jews began in 1933, the mass murder was committed during World War II. It took the Germans and their accomplices four and a half years to murder six million Jews. They were at their most efficient from April to November 1942 – 250 days in which they murdered some two and a half million Jews. They never showed any restraint, they slowed down only when they began to run out of Jews to kill, and they only stopped when the Allies defeated them."

"There was no escape. The murderers were not content with destroying the communities; they also traced each hidden Jew and hunted down each fugitive. The crime of being a Jew was so great, that every single one had to be put to death – the men, the women, the children; the committed, the disinterested, the apostates; the healthy and creative, the sickly and the lazy – all were meant to suffer and die, with no reprieve, no hope, no possible amnesty, nor chance for alleviation."

"Most of the Jews of Europe were dead by 1945. A civilization that had flourished for almost 2,000 years was no more. The survivors – one from a town, two from a host – dazed, emaciated, bereaved beyond measure, gathered the remnants of their vitality and the remaining sparks of their humanity, and rebuilt. They never meted out justice to their tormentors – for what justice could ever be achieved after such a crime? Rather, they turned to rebuilding: new families forever under the shadow of those absent; new life stories, forever warped by the wounds; new communities, forever haunted by the loss.”(source: Yad Vashem, World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration)

Among the survivors of the Holocaust who came to live in Scotland was the late Reverend Ernest Levy. One of Scotland's most prominent Jewish leaders, who survived seven Nazi concentration camps. Reverend Levy was taken from his home in Budapest, aged 19, to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was later transferred to Belsen. He moved from Hungary to Scotland in 1961 and was cantor of the Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue. He preached the horrors the Holocaust, reaching out particularly to young people with no experience of war to explain to them how the callousness inflicted on the Jewish community was not a remote chapter of a history book. "You would never imagine such organised cruelty is possible," he would quietly say. "As a teenager, you suddenly find yourself in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany. You think it could not get any worse, yet it became worse every day." He was twice published in his Holocaust experiences - Just One More Dance (1998) and The Single Light, written when he was 82.

In these short documentary videos by Tim Rice, Reverend Levy movingly recounts his story and his message for younger generations of the need for diversity, equality and respect.

(For more testimonies from people who sought sanctuary in Scotland to escape the racism of Nazi-dominated Europe please visit the Gathering the Voices project. For further information about Holocaust Memorial Day please visit the Holocaust Memorial Trust)