Kingston University’s Dr Marko Attila Hoare was one of the specialists asked to participate on the BBC 2’s Holocaust Memorial Day programme on January 27.
Dr Hoare, who is an Associate Professor specialising in the history of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, talked about the Bosnian Genocide and its significance alongside Kemal Percanic, who survived the Bosnian death camp Omarska.
In a Q&A with The River, Dr Hoare discussed why it is still important to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and how we have not learned as much in hindsight after the Second World War as we would like to think.
Why did you specialise in the Bosnian Genocide and why it is a main focus of discussion on the programme?
“My mother comes from the former Yugoslavia, and the war there was breaking out in the early 1990s while I was an undergraduate student studying history at Cambridge. So it was impossible for me not to be gripped by the history I was watching unfolding, and to want to understand and explain it.
“2015 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, which took place in the heart of Europe and is a case of genocide unambiguously recognised by the international courts. So it is fitting that the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day event this year should give such focus to it.”
Why is it still important to mark Holocaust Memorial Day?
“The Holocaust is the exemplar of mass genocidal crime carried out by the highly educated elite of an advanced industrialised society. As such, it is a reminder of what we, in supposedly advanced and civilised Europe, are capable of.
“It represents a moral reference point of which we are all aware; we should be able to agree to define our values in opposition to those, of hatred and prejudice, which led to the Holocaust.
“Yet genocide still takes place periodically in the world today, and Holocaust Memorial Day is also necessary to remind us that such crimes are not just historical, but still occurring. Finally, commemorating the victims, of the Holocaust and other genocides, is an end in itself.”
Has society as a whole learned anything from the Holocaust or are we just repeating old mistakes?
“Society has learned something, insofar as the dominant political culture in the democratic world considers racism and other forms of bigotry unacceptable, in principle at least, though there are always those trying to test the boundaries.
“However, the democratic world is still generally unwilling to halt genocide and other crimes of mass violence when they occur elsewhere; e.g. in Syria, for example. And even in the UK, we still partly subscribe to a eugenic culture that sees some categories of human beings as better off dead – particularly if they are disabled.
“We haven’t learned as much as we like to think.”
You went on the show alongside Kemal Pervanic – what was it like meeting a concentration-camp survivor?
“I have known Kemal for many years; he is an old friend. I have met many Bosnian genocide survivors and they are all different, with their own personal stories and perspectives.
“The most important point about them is that they are just like the rest of us – ordinary people. They got caught up in something unexpected and had to live through it, then rebuild their lives.
“Meeting people like Kemal remind us that these horrible things could have happened to any of us, if circumstances had been different.”
To watch the BBC 2 Holocaust Memorial Day programme, please click here.