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Holocaust Remembrance Day has become an annual ceremony and feature in the Western calendar that encourages nations around the world to remember the sufferings and torment of the Jewish people. It has become a part of the global educational curriculum along with Holocaust memorial centres that are scattered throughout the world. The mantra of this Holocaust Remembrace is “Lest We Forget.” Yet most have already forgotten the gypsies, blacks, POW´s and others who suffered the same fate, often at the same camps and at the hands of the same tormenters.

The event would not be complete without Prime Ministers, Presidents, Popes, Secretary Generals, and other leading world figures offering their contrite condolences and apologies for the evils and injustices of that period and even today, more than 65 years later, octogenarians deemed to have been involved in the mistreatment at these camps are hunted down and imprisoned.

Individuals, families and the state of Israel have claimed billions of dollars in compensation from governments, corporations and companies like Volkswagon who colluded with their tormentors and who profited from their misery. It can even be argued that the state of Israel was itself created as a direct result of Western guilt for having turned a blind eye to the Jewish suffering and in some instances colluding with the Nazis. Such is the global contrition for a shameful period of barbarity.

Two hundred years later and we are now being reminded of another Holocaust, the Atlantic Slave Trade; but why has it taken two hundred years for the British realm to acknowledge and condemn its role in the barbaric and evil act of human trafficking?

For the descendents of ex-slaves, of which virtually every person of Caribbean extract living in the UK are derived, there are no annual remembrances, no mention in the national curriculum, and no compensation.  Many of the companies and institutions which profited from slavery are household names: Lloyds, The Bank of England, The Church of England, The British Monarchy, Tate and Lyle, etc.  Yet shamefully, the British government and the British Royal family have yet to issue formal apologies.

The current attentions being given to the bi-centenary of the act to abolish slavery in Britain amounts to little more than a slightly inflated Black History Month celebration, where schools, companies and institutions will re-host last year’s pictures of Martin Luther King and Marcus Garvey, re-invite some black face to say a few words, and then end the evening with a buffet of curry goat, rice n peas, dumplings, and beef patties. Excuse me, but this is not enough. Tony Blair himself should be hosting a special ceremony at which he offers his sincere apologies for Britian’s involvement in the ghastly trade. The Queen should lower the royal flag and submit an apology from her balcony and it should be broadcast live by the BBC with as much attention and fanfare as they do her Christmas speech. Is this too much to ask? After all, was it not slavery, colonialism, and the exploitation of others that created the wealth of the country and put the “Great” in Great Britain?  Is this not the least the nation could do to renounce its past?

There is also much that Africans and people of African descent can be doing to acknowledge their past and to re-establish their future. The Jewish Holocaust is remembered because Jews around the world have made an effort to ensure that the world never forgets. They have built institutions dedicated to upholding the memory of their struggles; they have educated their children to uphold a sense of pride and dignity in their history, heritage, and faith.  They have achieved all of this by building unified networks with common interests.  Perhaps there is a lesson somewhere there for people of African descent to learn.  Lose the dependency on others, especially dependency on the State, and begin to do for the self. 

Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.
Editor, riceNpeas.com

1st March 2007
EDITORIAL: African Holocaust