Dr Paul Sanders, who specialises in the Occupation of the Channel Islands, was invited to speak at this year’s ceremony on Saturday to remember the victims of Hitler’s Nazi regime.
He said that we lived ‘at a time of economic, social, intellectual and political upheaval’ and added that ‘maintaining the memory of the Holocaust is more vital than ever’.
At the ceremony, tributes were paid to millions who died under Nazi rule – including 21 from Jersey.
Dr Sanders delivered his address before dozens of people at the Occupation Tapestry Gallery in the Maritime Museum at 2 pm on Saturday.
He said that he was ‘privileged and awed’ to address Islanders, including the Lieutenant-Governor, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, the Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache, and the Deputy Bailiff, Tim Le Cocq, to mark the annual day dedicated to the those who died in the Holocaust.
‘I realise the status that Holocaust Memorial Day has acquired in this Island over the years,’ he said.
‘The annual speech is something of a mark of nobility. It places me in a long line or orators, and I am honoured by this.’
He paid tribute in particular to Jersey residents who had died in concentration camps – the theme of his book ‘the Ultimate Sacrifice’, which has just released in its third edition.
‘21 of these Islanders died in prisons or concentration camps, the majority, but not all, after having been convicted of offences against the occupying authorities,’ he said
‘Their ranks included schoolboys, labourers, farmers, a shopkeeper, a middle-class businessman, a clergyman and an advocate of the Royal Court.’
And he said that remembering the victims of war crimes was all the more pertinent during a time of ‘historical amnesia’.
‘I give this address at a time of economic, social, intellectual and political upheaval – punctuated by a sense of creeping historical amnesia where many people don’t seem to want to take any more lessons from the past,’ he said.
‘This context informs a responsibility to be particularly poignant when addressing a Holocaust Memorial Day audience.’
He added: ‘The Holocaust had small beginnings but we are alert to the slippery slope. As the last of the wartime generation take their memories into the afterlife, maintaining the memory of the Holocaust is more vital than ever.
‘It is the only safeguard we have against amnesia and any temptation of hubris and excess.’
The commemoration was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lighthouse Memorial outside the Maritime Museum to the 21 Jersey victims.
Holocaust Memorial Day is held on 27 January every year and marks the day that the German concentration camps at Auschwitz were liberated.