Tomi Reichental awarded The Bar of Ireland human rights award
The Bar of Ireland has presented its annual human rights award to Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental in recognition of his work promoting tolerance and in educating young people about the importance of remembrance and reconciliation.
Tomáš (or Tomi) Reichental is one of three Holocaust survivors currently residing in Ireland. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1935 to Jewish farmers, he, his mother, his brother and his grandmother were taken to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944 where they stayed until the camp was liberated by the British in 1945.
Tomi moved to Ireland in 1959 and did not speak about his experiences during the second World War for more than half a century. For the past decade, however, he has tirelessly campaigned, speaking to schools and clubs and conferences, so that the victims of the Holocaust will not be forgotten, and that young people understand the importance of tolerance.
The award, an initiative of the Bar’s human rights committee, has previously been awarded in 2016 and 2017, most recently to amateur Irish historian Catherine Corless, who played a pivotal role in exposing the mass grave at a Mother and Baby home in Tuam.
Micheál O’Higgins SC, chairman of the Council of The Bar, said: “It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and that is why the selfless work carried out by Tomi Reichental in the last 10 years communicating and educating young people in Ireland about the Holocaust atrocity, is to be so highly commended.
“In the words of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, ‘What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again’ and this, I understand, is a key motivator for Tomi in his pursuit to promote tolerance amongst young people.”
Tim O’Leary SC, chairman of the human rights committee, said: “In selecting this year’s recipient, the Human Rights Committee was mindful of the increasing number of human rights abuses which are predicated on abuses of power by those in authority.
“The warning signs of the changing political climate across Europe cannot be ignored, and when coupled with a growing interference in the independence of courts and the judiciary, threatens the rule of law.
“This award is in recognition of the truly inspirational work Tomi has done across Ireland – we stand with him in his admirable and unrelenting defence of human rights.”
Tomi Reichental said: “I am so honoured to receive this award. I am gratified that an organisation like The Bar of Ireland is placing such a priority and focus on the principles that I hold so dear – respect and tolerance for all.
“It is so important to remember that the Holocaust did not start with gas chambers, but with whisper, taunts, daubing, abuse and finally murder.
“As a society it is crucial, I believe, that we all stand united against this type of behaviour and that we all both embrace and respect the minorities that we live and work side by side with. The Ireland I know is welcoming and tolerant, but it cannot afford to be complacent in these changing times.”