Those who lived through the Holocaust and genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur warn politicians that ‘what starts as name-calling becomes licence to maim and murder’
Survivors of genocides including the Holocaust have called on politicians across the world to consider the long-term impact of their words.
Their open letter, published on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website, comes as countries prepare to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Signatories include 13 survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, who warned politicians that “what starts as name-calling becomes licence to maim and murder”.
Surveying the global political scene, the group criticised what they saw as “extreme and polarising” language used by politicians for “political point-scoring”.
They added: “We are living witnesses to what can happen if this vitriolic public discourse is not recognised, challenged and halted.”
The letter is signed by six Holocaust survivors including Steven Frank, one of 93 children to survive Theresienstadt, Ivor Perl, who was 12 when taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau; and Hannah Lewis, who witnessed her mother being killed.
HMDT chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman said: “These remarkable individuals are drawing attention to the need for all of us to consider the consequences of what we say. As they know from tragic personal experience, words have power.”
The full list of signatories to the open letter:
- Steven Frank BEM, survivor of the Holocaust
- Ivor Perl BEM, survivor of the Holocaust
- Hannah Lewis MBE, survivor of the Holocaust
- Joan Salter MBE, survivor of the Holocaust
- Dr Martin Stern MBE, survivor of the Holocaust
- Bernd Koschland MBE, Kindertransportee
- Sabit Jakupović, survivor of the Genocide in Bosnia
- Safet Vukalic BEM, survivor of the Genocide in Bosnia
- Var Ashe Houston, survivor of the Genocide in Cambodia
- Sokphal Din BEM, survivor of the Genocide in Cambodia
- Eric Eugene Murangwa MBE, survivor of the Genocide in Rwanda
- Zina Abbas, survivor of the Genocide in Darfur (identity protected)
- Isam Agieb, survivor of the Genocide in Darfur