By Ed MILIBAND, Leader of the Opposition.
I never met my mother’s father.
He was taken from the Czestochowa ghetto in Poland and died in a concentration camp towards the end of the war.
The first I knew about my grandfather was when I saw his picture at my grandmother’s house in Israel.
On Monday, I spoke at the Holocaust Memorial Day event in Central London. Many other people at the event were also there to commemorate members of their family who had been killed in the Holocaust.
I was there for David, the grandfather I never knew, and for all my family members – on my mother and father’s side – that died.
I was also there to remember the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust and all those who lost their lives under Nazi persecution.
Holocaust Memorial Day is also an opportunity to remember subsequent genocides and crimes against humanity.
We use the day to honour the victims’ memory, remember their persecution, their suffering.
And to say never again.
That memory is the best guardian of liberty. As the number of survivors declines, the responsibility of remembrance, teaching and vigilance, grows heavier still on our generation and generations of the future.
In Germany in the 1930s, the terrible idea that those who do not share our faith, our race, our ideology, do not share our humanity was allowed to take root.
If there is one proposition which for thousands of years has brought unspeakable grief to the world it is this.
From this flowed the Holocaust and all crimes against humanity.
We must continually reject this hatred and both the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Education Trust do vital work in ensuring that we never forget.
This year the theme that they have picked for Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘journeys’.
So many journeyed to their death during the Holocaust. But others took journeys which saved their lives.
This is an issue that is particularly close to my heart as it reflects an important part of my family’s history. I particularly think of the stories of three journeys that members of my family made during the Holocaust.
The first journey is of my father and his father, walking 100 km from Brussels to Ostend to get one of the last boats from Belgium to Britain in May 1940.
The second journey is of my father’s sister and their mother in August 1942 to a small Belgian village, Montignies-lez-Lens, where they were sheltered for the rest of the Nazi occupation by a Belgian farmer.
That village would eventually save 17 members of my family.
And the third is the journey of my mother, my aunt and my grandmother which saw them go through terrible hardship, separation, but eventually saw them saved by a Catholic family, the Sitkowskis, that lived in Warsaw.
These journeys were all borne of the most incredible fear but provided extraordinary hope and, indeed, salvation.
And they speak to something else—something even more powerful than terror and hate—that we remember today: compassion, courage and humanity.
The compassion of a country that provided sanctuary to my Dad and his father and gave them a place they could find education, work and build a family.
The immense courage of that Belgian farmer and his family who saved so many members of my family at huge personal risk to themselves.
And the humanity of the Sitkowski family, that sheltered my mother.
I am only alive because of this compassion and courage.
There is an expression in the Talmud that sums up the importance of this basic humanity: “He who saves one single life it is as if he has saved an entire world.”
We must always remember those who recognised our common humanity and in doing so saved an entire world.
We must carry their spirit forward to build a better, more peaceful world.
* This article is based on a speech that Ed Miliband delivered at the Holocaust Memorial Day event at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster on 27 January.