The millions of people who were exterminated in Nazi death camps will never be allowed to be forgotten, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said today.
Mr Murphy was attending the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at the Waterside Theatre in Derry today.
He said: “Holocaust Memorial Day presents us with an opportunity to join with representatives of the persecuted and those who themselves experienced persecution, to remember the millions who died.
“Sixty years ago, the world was about to discover that what it had feared, suspected and even denied, was indeed a reality: the enslavement and extermination of human beings, on an unimaginable scale by the Nazi regime.”
Mr Murphy said the Holocaust challenged society’s power of comprehension in seeking to understand how this could have happened in 20th-century Europe.
“It makes us recognise how inadequate our imagination is to the task of visualising the scale and intensity of the suffering.”
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi extermination camps in World War II.
The fourth Northern Ireland Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, organised in association with Derry City Council, commemorated all those who died during the Holocaust.
Murphy reflected on this year’s theme of the Commemoration of ‘Survivors, Liberation and Rebuilding Lives’.
“This year’s theme reminds us that, for some, the horrors which they survived were followed by the challenge of rebuilding their lives, in a world devoid of the basic supports of home, family, friends and even country, something today which we take for granted.
“Their achievement, not only in rebuilding their own lives, but enriching in so many ways the lives of the countries in which they settled, including Northern Ireland, is testament for all that is good in the human spirit.”
This year, for the first time, a schools’ poetry competition was organised for Key Stage Three pupils, to raise awareness of Holocaust Memorial Day and the winning poems formed part of the ceremony.
Acknowledging the contribution of young people, Mr Murphy added: “The remarkable ability of young people to show, through their poetry, the impact which the Holocaust can exercise on imaginations, 60 years on, is outstanding.”