Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Russian troops. Auschwitz was the most notorious of many such camps in which many millions of people  were murdered during the Holocaust. The majority of these people were Jewish, although many other groups were targeted by this crime: political opponents to the Nazi regime, homosexuals, Roma, ethic minorities and disabled people among others. Tragically genocides like this have happened since. On the 27th January every year we remember the millions of people who have been murdered, or whose lives have been changed by genocide, both during the Shoah and in later conflicts.

Writing in the 1950s, Theodor Adorno wrote that to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. Several writers however, have used the medium of literature to bear witness to this crime and to examine how it happened in order that one day it can be prevented ever happening again.

The library holds several books about the Holocaust and genocide which are both powerful pieces of literature and also calls to action from each of us to stop it ever happening again.

  • Anus mundi : five years in Auschwitz written by Wieslaw Kielar is a very moving and harrowing account of the author’s experiences at Auschwitz.
  • Maus, by Art Speiglemann, is both a biography of the author’s parents, and a depiction of their experiences of the shoah and the effect it had in their lives after the war. A comic book, in which Jewish characters are drawn as mice and Germans are drawn as cats, it is both profoundly tragic and deeply moving. It is surely one of the great books of the 20th century.
  • If This is Man by Primo Levi is a powerful book inspired by the author’s experiences in Auschwitz. A trained chemist, at one time Levi was helping the German war effort, before he was sent to Auschwitz. Levi was one amongst a generation of great Jewish Italian writers, whose lives were effected by the holocaust.
  • Following the war many of the Nazi leaders were put on trial for Crimes against Humanity. Telford Taylor, who was counsel to the prosecution, wrote his memoirs of the trials which was published posthumously in 1992. The anatomy of the Nuremberg trials: a personal memoir is a very interesting and moving book of this aspect of the Shoah.
  • Hannah Arendt examined the illness that grew fruit to such evil, in books such as Eichmann in Jerusalem and The origins of totalitarianism . Her most famous theory, the banality of evil, described the actions of Eichmann a mild mannered man who nevertheless organised the murder of millions. She wrote it as she was reported on his trial in Israel in 1968 for the New Yorker magazine.
  • International criminal law and human rights by City academic Claire de Than explores  how issues of International Human Rights and International Criminal Law overlap. In it she explores how the International Criminal Court can try international crimes such as Genocide.

These books must be read so that we always remember the tragedy and evil that is genocide.