There has been an exhibition running for the last few weeks at Ripon Cathedral (ends next weekend) to coincide with the Holocaust Memorial Day, which is an international day of remembrance for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust genocides. Today we decided we should go and see it.
The six million buttons on display, in the art installation by Leeds based Antonia Stowe, represent each Jew that was killed during the Holocaust in Europe between 1933 and 1945. Every button represents a life lost.
It is pretty staggering that so many people were killed during that time and something that I wasn’t really aware of the scale of. Seeing the six million buttons laid deeply on the floor of the Cathedral really overwhelmed me with the absolute atrocity that happened during World War II. Auschwitz was the largest killing centre and approximately 1.3 million Jews were killed there, and they were transported there in large numbers on a daily basis.
The Nazis murdered a total of 11 million people which included not only Jews but anyone who did not fit into the Aryan concept of normality (blond hair, blue eyed). The persecution was based not only on religion but skin colour, disability, sexuality, ethnicity as well as political affiliation. The other people that were targeted by the Nazis and lost their lives included 200,000 gypsies, 250,000 mentally or physically disabled people and 3,000,000 Soviet prisoners of war.
The Holocaust is an event that my kids will be taught in History lessons, but there are more recent genocides such as Rwanda in 1994 when 1,000,000 Tutsis were murdered, and currently Darfur which started in 2003 which has seen between 200,000 and 400,000 black Africans killed, and more than 2.5 million displaced.
It really makes you reflect on how lucky we really are, and how much suffering there is in the world.
Update 25/2/2010 I’m disgusted to read in today’s local paper that someone has stolen over £1000 in donations that were given at the Cathedral in support of the exhibition. Have things really got that bad to steal from a Cathedral?