I grew up hearing first hand accounts of civilian life and armed service during the Second World War from my mother and father, my grandparents, some neighbours, teachers and a few uncles. I learned that one of my neighbours and one of my teachers at Monmouth had been imprisoned by the Japanese during the conflict, but I was told that it was unwise to broach the subject with these men, as they were not disposed to speak about their experiences.
In 1973, when I was in my early teens, I was transfixed by the Thames Television series the World at War and even now, I clearly recall that the final episode ended with Laurence Olivier uttering the single word “Remember”. However, despite the fact that this series documented forever the appalling horrors visited upon the world and precisely how they came to be, the depressing fact remains that while we might be aware of what happened, this has not stopped us from repeatedly treating our fellows as something less than human, up until and including the present day.
The most grotesque manifestation of human depravity was the death factory at Auschwitz; to honour and remember those who suffered and died there, I would like to say something original about this manmade Hell on Earth, but it is quite simply beyond my ability to do so. Fortunately, there exist far more gifted and eloquent people than myself, so I shall leave you with this moving report from the BBC’s Fergal Keane, made on this, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by soldiers from the Red Army.