Nick Sigler, Trustee at MRN, remembers his grandparents on Holocaust Memorial Day 2024, and reflects on why ‘never again’ matters today more than ever.
I have a sheaf of letters written by my grandparents, Hedwig and Arthur Sigler, from wartime Nazi Germany to my father who had escaped to England on the Kindertransport. As I read those letters the words that keep coming to mind are ‘illegal’ and ‘safe passage’. To the Nazis my grandparents – together with their siblings, relatives and friends – were ‘illegal’ – Jews with no rights. For them there was no ‘safe passage’. They applied for visas to the United States, Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay, Argentina and Britain. But every door was closed. And had they tried to escape across borders, refugees fleeing the onslaught of the Holocaust, then they would have been deemed illegal in the countries they reached. The designation of ‘illegal’ and the lack of safe passage were my grandparents’ death warrants, transported to Auschwitz in July 1942. And murdered. And the plight of refugees continues till today.
Over and over again we hear the refrain from Holocaust survivors –‘Never Again’ . A plea that we should understand and learn from their terrible experiences – and from the fate of their families. But increasingly that plea seems to be being ignored and we are witnessing genocide again and again. We see the evidence all around us in our daily news programmes on social media, in the papers. And we see it in the testimony of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide forcibly displaced, driven from their homes in fear of persecution, deprived of their freedoms, unable to speak their minds, hounded for their beliefs, transformed into refugees seeking a safe and welcoming place to live.