During 2015, I participated in a Holocaust memorial project that plays with the very notion of a memorial. Never Again Ever! is based on the idea that memorialisation without action is part of the problem, and this was reflected in our events over the past year.
2015 was a year filled with commemorations to the Holocaust, owing to it being the 70th anniversary of its “end.” Never Again Ever! successfully created many exciting, creative, and unique events in this context, and will continue to do so. We oriented our events on communities that are often ignored in the ‘Holocaust hierarchy.’ These included its disabled (Holocaust Memorial Day Vigil on January 27), LGBTQ+ (The Homocaust on February 28), and Roma-Sinti (Roma Holocaust Memorial on August 2) victims.
These groups suffer from continued marginalisation, and their exclusion from the official Holocaust narrative obscures the full horror of what happened. This is essential to spotting how fascist mentalities continue. Never Again Ever! attempted to unravel that complicated question through events such as the creative activism workshop Beyond the Ballot Box on June 14, the screening of Cabaret: The Musical on September 29, and the Kristallnacht memorial Is the Past Ever the Past? on October 10. Our most well-known action was the Beyond UKIP Cabaret on March 11, during which we performed our opposition to fascism as it continues to exist.
It is fairly obvious that more than seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, fascist tendencies impulses are still with us. We may say “Never Again!” in response to stories of brutality in Nazi Germany, but genocide still happens. War still happens. Chronic deprivation, the reduction of human beings to numbers, and the brutal treatment of an “underclass” still happens.
The economic and philosophical conditions that led to the Holocaust remain with us in different forms, and our purpose in 2015 was to focus on marginalised groups, and expose how we still live in societies that breed fascist impulses. Never Again Ever! will enter 2016 by focusing on “understanding,” as in picking apart the machinery that produces fascistic violence, and “transforming as a result of understanding,” by using activism to creatively envision alternative societies without this machinery.
Never Again Ever! will play with Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of ahimsa in our organising, by which we will practice anti-violence by absorbing violence within ourselves. However, we will go further than Gandhi, whose pacifism was controversial, and later applied to dismiss and neutralise the legitimate resistance of oppressed peoples.
Instead, we will practice ahimsa as “principled anti-violence” rather than crudely “non-violence” or “pacifism,” and encourage a transformation of society to eliminate the possibility of fascism in the first place. Violence must be absorbed into ourselves, to replace endless reprisals with empathy and understanding, but it is also the result of tangible frameworks. Social life can and should be overhauled to such an extent that violent situations, including terrorist attacks, never occur in the first place.
Topics of discussion will include the European refugee crisis, ‘sovereign immunity’ benefits that allow perpetrators of war crimes to escape prosecution, and the continued fallout of military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
Last year, we attempted to push beyond the simple admission that the Holocaust was a horrific event. We already know that. The point isn’t just to know that the Holocaust was horrific. The point is to change the world so that no part of it ever happens again. This year, our objective will be to raise the stakes, and pursue that objective through even more scholarship, reflection, solidarity, and creative activism. Only then will we be able to say “never again,” and more specifically, “Never Again, Ever!”
Photograph courtesy of Never Again Ever!