As the world marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, three members of Parliament rose in the House of Commons Tuesday to poignantly reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust.
And, for two of them, to open up on how that unspeakably dark chapter of history affected their families.
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett was the first to pay tribute, just before question period, to the six million "daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters" killed in the genocide.
Bennett called on her colleagues to give special meaning to the words "never again" by standing up in the face of injustice.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair became choked up while reflecting on "humanity's darkest hour" and the "children whose bright eyes were shut too early." Mulcair’s wife, Catherine Pinhas, is the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
"New Democrats stand with those who wish to build a better Canada, one of diversity and peace," he said. "And so against hate and indifference, we will work tirelessly so that this can never happen again. We will build a world where love will prevail."
But Conservative MP Mark Adler's speech was perhaps the most personal. The Toronto politician's father survived internment at the "factory of death" that was Auschwitz.
Adler said the phrase "never again" needs to be a call to action to resist anti-Semitism and ignorance and the bystander effect when evil rears its head.
"Let that be the true legacy of Auschwitz," he said, to a standing ovation.
Full transcript of Bennett's speech:
Mr. Speaker, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed every January 27th to mark one of the darkest atrocities in human history: the systematic killing of six million Jews during the Second World War.
This year’s solemn day of remembrance has a special meaning. It is also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The victims of this unfathomable crime against humanity were six million daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. People whose lives were ended prematurely through acts of blind hatred.
Today is not only a day of deep reflection for the Jewish community, but for all Canadians and people around the world. On this day and every day we must give special meaning to the words "never again," by pledging to actively stand up against hate, injustice, anti-Semitism, racism and refuse to be silent in the face of genocide.
Full transcript of Mulcair's translated speech:
Mr. Speaker, today we stand together to commemorate the Holocaust, humanity's darkest hour. We remember the millions of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who were targeted by evil, including my wife's family.
We remember these children whose bright eyes were shut too early and we remember the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That day, humanity did more than put out a horrible fire. We revived the flame of the human spirit.
The contrary of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Let’s never wallow in indifference based on the poison of anti-Semitism and intolerance in all its forms.
New Democrats stand with those who wish to build a better Canada, one of diversity and peace, and so against hate and indifference, we will work tirelessly so that this can never happen again.
And we will build a world where love will prevail.
Full transcript of Adler's speech:
Mr. Speaker, today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Beginning in 1942, Jews would arrive from the ghettos of eastern Europe in cattle cars. Upon arrival, those strong enough to work would be sent to the right. Women and children would be sent to the left to die in the gas chambers. By 1944, some 20,000 people a day would be murdered in this fashion.
Some had another fate. Josef Mengele, the camp doctor, would pick children, particularly twins, for gruesome experiments.
Those sent for slave labour would be tattooed with a number on their arm, like my dad, 15 years old at the time. Many were worked to their death. Others, by time of liberation, would sit or lie on the ground, staring vacantly into space, no longer aware of who or where they were. By liberation, over one million Jews died in Auschwitz, plus 100,000 others in this factory of death.
Therefore, when we remember the dead souls and we say, “never again,” let this not be a mere phrase, but a call to action. A call to resist anti-Semitism and ignorance in all its forms and to refuse to be bystanders to evil whenever it rears its ugly head.
Let that be the true legacy of Auschwitz.
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