"The Holocaust both in terms of scale and nature was the deepest atrocity perpetrated in the history of humanity. I have had the honour and privilege to meet survivors of the Holocaust and to hear their moving testimony. Sadly, the generation of survivors from the Holocaust still alive is diminishing with the passage of time, and like other veterans of the Second World War, it will not be many years in the future when they are no longer with us at all, and we are able to meet in person those who can give us first hand testimony of this monstrous evil.
The need however to commemorate and educate about the horrors of the Holocaust are just as relevant today, if not more so, and cannot be consigned to history with the passing of the least survivors. We owe it to the memory of the many millions of victims and survivors. The Nazis targeted many groups for persecution, with the principal focus of their hatred on the Jewish community throughout the world, whom they systematically tried to wipe off the face of the earth. Those victims are reason enough to remember the Holocaust.
It is also important to educate future generations of the horrors of the Holocaust. We live at a time where the quantity and availability of information has never been greater, but we also live in an era where misinformation and conspiracy theories run rife, where facts are dismissed as fake news, and where history is not simply distorted but rewritten by some for their own purposes. Antisemitism remains rife in the world even in our country, and sadly genocide has occurred in a number of our countries since 1945.
Education is vital. That is why it was critical not simply that Holocaust is remembered each year, but that the Lessons From Auschwitz project was reintroduced for schools in Northern Ireland and must continue to be funded. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that history does not threaten to repeat itself. We should learn the lessons from history. The Holocaust was not simply characterised by terror, fury and menacing hated, but also through cold calculating organisation and preparation, cloaked in deception and secrecy, so that often the victims did not realise the full horror of their fate until the very last second. That was very deliberate and should serve as a warning for the future.
The generation of Holocaust survivors is physically passing from this earth. It falls to the rest of us to pick up the torch and ensure their memory and their warnings are heeded and kept alive."