“I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me. When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!
Anne Frank, written in her diary, 5 April 1944.
I read Anne Frank’s diary at about the same age as she would have been writing it. I knew about the Holocaust at that stage and when my father gave this book to me to read I suppose it was that dimension of it that he was thinking. I, however, became totally immersed in this girl’s story, her family, and her wish to become a writer that I forgot the bigger picture of this kindred spirit’s one, incredibly significant, publication.
I remember arriving at the back page, the epilogue of sorts, and reading about what happened to her with such disbelief and heartbreak. I thought that such writing would make my friend-across-time immune to such an end. But it didn’t. The vibrant girl in the Amsterdam annex has stayed with me.
Just one voice. How it’s been a witness for not just her or her family but to an atrocity – an abuse of human rights – the scale of which I cannot imagine.
I worked in my twenties to build up a small specialist library on the subject of equality (and discrimination) in third level institutions. I read a lot, between the cataloguing of them and setting them on the shelf, of books dedicated to defining and removing the processes of discrimination between classes and types of people. I learned how words can be dropped in to drive a wedge between ‘them’ and ‘us’ and where that leads.
My professional path through life, also brought me a series of lectures, as a student of marketing, on propaganda, this precursor to our ‘post-truth’ era. – the reality of it – the attempt to establish some kind of ‘good’ line between what it is and what actions it produces and words generated to tempt people to buy goods and services.
Words. Words before action. The power of words to influence action. Words that can be used for good or for evil – as this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day literature reminds us.
I set the intention always now – no matter what I am writing – from poems to advertisting copy – that good, safe and life-affirming outcomes may follow on from my words.
The Power of Words – Holocaust Memorial Day 2018
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place annually on the 27 January – the aniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It marks not only the Holocaust but is a day to remember the millions of people murdered in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. It is a chance to honour the survivors, and to work to challenge hatred and create a safer, better future.
It is a privilege to be involved on this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day Programme with its ‘Power of Words’ theme.
AFTERWORD: Thanks to all who took part in both events. I very much appreciate you being there, and the energy that you brought to the events.
Creative Writing Workshop (Down County Museum, 27 January 2018, 10am-1pm, FREE).
This poetry writing workshop will give participants the chance to create pieces exploring the theme. I’m looking forward to meeting the participants tomorrow. If your eye falls across this before the end of today and you’d like to be involved. There are some places – contact: 028 4461 5218
‘Power of Words’ Poems on a Sunday Afternoon (Down Arts Centre, 28 January, 2.30-4.30pm, FREE)
Participants from the workshop are inited to share the work from this event at a special Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Poems on a Sunday Afternoon’ happening at Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick, on Sunday 27 January, 2.30-430pm. This will form the normal ‘feature’ segment of the afternoon.
As always, all who attend are invited to share work – their own or, a favourite (or a mix) – that celebrates the words in all it’s forms and in this case the power of words.
Booking isn’t required. Looking forward to meeting at either or both events all being well.
Do check out the full Holocaust Memorial Trust programme in Northern Ireland, there are some very thought-provoking events, that engage beautifully with the theme, happening this couple of weeks: http://www.hmd.org.uk/events/find/Northern%20Ireland?page=1
I want to thank particulary Shirley from the Trust in Northern Ireland for her support of this event’s programme.