At 8pm today, people up and down the country will be lighting a candle in their windows to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Britain’s landmarks will also be bathed in a purple light as we collectively remember the millions who lost their lives and reflect on the lessons we can learn from the tragedy.
This has undoubtedly been a year shrouded in darkness. These winter months have been particularly bleak and isolating, and the incomprehensible death tolls we have faced over the past few weeks are a daily reminder of the suffering faced by so many in this country.
The Holocaust is a story of devastation, loss and destruction. While there is little we can extract from this episode of history that can provide any source of hope or positivity, this year’s theme of “Light the Darkness” can provide some solace in these trying times. We can look to the resilience and strength of the survivors, some of whom are alive today and soldiering through the pandemic, as a source of optimism.
The Holocaust is also a reminder that in the aftermath of crises, it is the heroes that we eventually come to remember. Heroes like Sir Nicholas Winton, “Britain’s Schindler”, who single-handedly saved 669 children from the Nazi regime by evacuating young refugees to England. Sir Nicholas’s work went unnoticed by the world for almost 50 years, until 1988 when he was invited to the BBC programme That’s Life where he was reunited with several of the children he had saved.
It is perhaps some small comfort to think of all the unknown heroes of the pandemic, and what stories will emerge in years to come of who have silently gone above and beyond for others in a time of need. We are also surrounded by everyday heroes — the doctors, nurses, cleaners, bus drivers and shopkeepers who put their lives at risk for their community.
When we look back at this period of intense darkness in years to come, it is these people who we will remember; those who helped us to slowly but surely turn on the light.