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Why not mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in Malta?

Survivors are seen at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, during the ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the camp and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27. Photo: Reuters

Survivors are seen at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, during the ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the camp and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27. Photo: Reuters

On January 27 Europe and Israel commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Shoah, remembering the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis in the concentration camps and in other cities.

However, hardly any mention of this was made in the local media and there was no official commemoration of this perpetual ‘black mark’.

I was moved when I listened to some of the survivors of the Holocaust, such as Italian Liliana Segre who was made a senator for life by President Sergio Mattarella.  The announcement was made to mark 80 years since Italy’s fascist government led by Benito Mussolini introduced racial laws discriminating against Jews.

At the age of eight Serge was deported with her father to Auschwitz. He was killed in the gas chambers and God willed that she would survive to tell her tragic story to future generations.

All this brings me to ask the government, which for years has had good relations with Israel, why no commemoration was held? Furthermore, why is the media indifferent to this day?

What worries me most is how we have communicated this brutal Nazi genocide to children in schools and at higher institutes of education. I enquired and received a negative response.

In Italy buses take children to visit various concentration camps to learn about the terrible atrocities that took place. This is a lesson for life.

In Malta we have a long history of association with the Jewish people. I always thought that the first Jew who landed in Malta was Paul of Damascus but I learned that as far back as 3,500BC we had small community of Jews mainly mariners.

Throughout our history from the Normans, the Knights of Malta, the Inquisition and the French, the Jews in Malta passed from being slaves to accepted citizens.

When the expulsion of Jews took place, some converted to the Christian faith. We now have names of Jewish origin like Attard, Ellul, Salamone, Mamo, Meli and others.

These historical roots showed how much there are linkages between us and the Jews. The same may be said about how we all lived close to the Muslims, which is why I always dreamed of a house of prayer on an ecumenical level for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

All this will be the sign of our past and present and future signs of living together as a community of faiths, love and tolerance.

One of the reasons why we should remember the Shoah is the fact that after the downfall of Nazi Germany, the British allowed Jews to enter Malta without a visa, unlike other countries. I recall a few Jewish families in my father’s hotel in Sliema (Meadowbank) living there.

Some countries and the last two Popes have made apologies to the Jews. If this is not our case, we should have a plaque and or a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust, as well as a commemoration held on every International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

We should not allow what Pope Francis called “the virus of indifference” to corrode the values we still have.

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