The First Minister of Scotland took place in an inclusive Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration ceremony that also paid tribute to LGBTI victims.
The event marked Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 as well as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.
They were organised by the group Interfaith Scotland in partnership with South Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
It featured Ela Wassberger, an 84 year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor, and Hasan Hasanovicto, a 39 year-old Bosnian Genocide survivor, recounting their memories of surviving these horrific events.
Ben Freeman of From Yesterday For Tomorrow charity made spoke briefly about how LGBTI people suffered during the Holocaust which was followed by a short film, featuring amongst others, a gay man who survived the Holocaust and recounted his story.
Other tribute presentations were made by South Ayrshire Provost, Helen Moonie, Emma Browne as well as singing by South Ayrshire Schools’ Choir, a performance of Ingemisco from Verdi Requiem Mass by Royal Conservatry musicians and Rabbi Moshe Rubin signing Ani Ma’aamin.
Sturgeon praised the willingness of survivors and charity work to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive: “It’s an incredibly moving and effective way of achieving the aim of this year’s memorial day – Keeping the Memory Alive,” she said.
“The purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day – and the reason it’s essential to keep the memory alive – is that if we understand the very worst consequences of intolerance and prejudice, we are less likely to accept them in today’s society.
“… If we open our eyes to the lives of others – if we put ourselves in their shoes, and demonstrate empathy and understanding – we’ll be better placed to contribute to the tolerant, diverse, inclusive society that all of us all want to see.
“We all know that Scotland’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths.
“We are proud to be a home to people of all faiths and none. The tartan of our national identity has many colours and many strands. And we can also take pride in some important recent milestones for equality – for example the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal.
“But we can never be complacent. The events in Paris three weeks ago are an awful reminder of the importance of tackling anti-semitism and all other forms of discrimination and prejudice.
“And here is still more to do in Scotland, for as long as anyone has to suffer abuse or even assault because of their race, their religion, their sexuality or any other part of their identity.
“One step we can take – just one step, but a very important one – to create the Scotland we want to see; is to remember, reflect on and honour the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides.”
The event was closed by candle lighting for each of the groups (including LGBTI) that was marked for extermination during the holocaust, as well as candles to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz and the genocide of Srebrenica.
by Dan Littauer