Monday 9 December 2019

Holocaust survivor hits out at comments on asylum seekers

'Sorry is not enough,' says Tomi (85)

Award: Tomi Reichental with his 2019 Human Rights Award from the Bar of Ireland in recognition of his work promoting tolerance. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Award: Tomi Reichental with his 2019 Human Rights Award from the Bar of Ireland in recognition of his work promoting tolerance. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography

Gabija Gataveckaite

A Holocaust survivor who was honoured with the human rights award from the Bar of Ireland insisted politicians apologising for negative remarks about asylum seekers "doesn't clear them".

Tomi Reichental (84) was awarded the prestigious award at a ceremony in the Distillery at the Bar of Ireland in Dublin yesterday evening.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, he expressed his concerns for the language surrounding asylum seekers from politicians.

"It's very saddening because I'm living here 60 years and I never heard this [kind of] conversation going on," he said.

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"And it is leaders in society that are creating and making remarks and I basically think that it's not enough to say, 'Sorry, I made a mistake'.

"This is very, very serious," he said.

Mr Reichental said politicians apologising for negative remarks about asylum seekers is not sufficient.

"These people, if they slipped and said this thing, that's what they were thinking about," he said. "And after just saying sorry, it doesn't clear them.

"Therefore, there should be repercussions, that people are careful, especially the leaders in the community are very careful in these times, because it's very dangerous."

Mr Reichental is one of three holocaust survivors residing in Ireland.

In 1944, at the age of nine, Mr Reichental, his mother and grandmother were taken to Bergen Belsen concentration camp where they were incarcerated until the camp was liberated in 1945.

Mr Reichental moved to Ireland in 1959 but did not speak about his experiences for more than 50 years.

For the past decade, he has delivered speeches to thousands of schoolchildren across the country.

In a speech at the presentation of the award, Tim O'Leary SC said Mr Reichental's campaigning and storytelling was very relevant in the current political climate.

"This award is in recognition of the truly inspirational work Tomi has done across Ireland," he said.

Irish Independent

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