Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney at The Objects of Love exhibition at Dublin Castle. The exhibition tells the story of HAI founder Oliver Sears's family before during & after the Holocaust through precious family objects, photography & documents.
Understanding the Holocaust, its impact and legacy offers enormous opportunity for all who care about the future of humanity. While the human cost serves as a stark warning to any society ready to dismantle democracy, the Holocaust also contains a message of hope; of extraordinary courage and kindness, of millions of individual stories that move, compel and, above all, urge us never to forget.
Holocaust Awareness Ireland (HAI) promotes a multi-faceted engagement with the Holocaust through the following aims:
To bring awareness and understanding of the Holocaust to Irish society today
To advocate the values of democracy through contemporary perspectives of the Holocaust
To create ongoing dialogue with historians, poets, politicians, artists filmmakers, lawmakers, journalists, writers & others on the continued impact of the Holocaust on contemporary life
To present & commemorate the personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors, their children and successors with humility, dignity and compassion
HAI provides a forum for a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and promoting informed discourse through a programme of talks, seminars, exhibitions & panel discussions, drawing on diverse perspectives from national and international speakers and partners.
Oliver Sears is a London-born Dublin-based art dealer & gallery owner. The son of a Holocaust survivor, he has lived in Ireland for over 30 years. He was a trustee on the board of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland for three years and is a frequent contributor to radio programmes and newspapers including RTÉ and The Irish Times. He is a guest lecturer at Trinity College Dublin on the subject of his family history during the Holocaust and how it has shaped his life.
He tells his family story, entitled The Objects of Love, through a collection of precious objects, documents and photographs, powerful mementoes that survived the war and describe individual lives under Nazi occupation.
A personal message
Oliver’s mother Monika aged 2½ in the Warsaw Ghetto 1941.
As the Holocaust moves away in time, I am drawn ever closer to its complex meaning. As the son of a survivor, I have been immersed in this history and its aftermath since my early childhood. My mother, Monika, in common with many survivors, did not speak about her experience until she was fifty-one -- my age now. Like many who share such a history, the family secrets and silences, punctuated by occasional revelations, were the single most powerful influences in the formation of my own identity.
We live in a world of rising political authoritarianism that threatens democracy and promotes racism, division and exclusion. The Holocaust happened incrementally, creeping up on a society that gradually accepted laws that took away rights from particular minorities until, one day, a policy was adopted to eradicate the Jews from Europe. Roma and Sinti communities, homosexuals, political prisoners, the physically and intellectually disabled, and anyone else considered a threat to the regime were also imprisoned and murdered. A regime of systematic murder that began by manipulating language ended by committing genocide.
As time passes and my mother reaches the end of her life, she says, alarmingly, that life appears to be coming full circle for her as she watches with distress the rise of an all too familiar politics of fear, division and exclusion. This is an insight we must take seriously. It is not only the responsibility of the survivors of the Holocaust to bear witness, but also those who hear their testimonies inherit the same responsibility. Ensuring that all the victims are remembered, including my murdered relatives, has become of paramount importance.
Living in Ireland, a country with almost no cultural or historical connection to the Holocaust, I hope that becoming aware of this subject will bring an even greater appreciation of democracy and human rights to those who have never known anything else, but who must now become the guardians of those values, across the generations.
Oliver Sears, 2021