Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in September 2005 as part of a project involving the Belfast Jewish community and supported by Belfast City Council.
Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps during the Second World War and was described by Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler as the place of 'the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.'
This week at Stormont there was a small exhibition of photographs from Auschwitz as well as an accompanying booklet which contains photographs of Auschzwitz and as short introduction by Alex Maskey.
|Jewish victims at Auschwitz|
I welcome the fact that Maskey was brought face to face with the horror of Auschwitz and I welcome his visit for a number of reasons.
Recently Gerry Adams apologised for the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe by the IRA and he is now being challenged about the murders of many RUC men in Northern Ireland. The murder of a policeman in Northern Ireland is no different from the murder of a policeman in the Republic. Murder is murder and it is wrong.
But Sinn Fein has also to face up to earlier episodes in the history of Irish republicanism and one of those is the Second World War. During that war, when many Ulstermen and Irishmen were fighting the Nazis and the Fascists in Europe, the IRA collaborated with the Nazis.. They collaborated with the people who were responsible for Auschwitz and every other evil of the Nazi regime.
That is part of the IRA story that republicans want to forget and of course they are good at forgetting what they want to forget. I have posted before about the collaboration between the IRA and the Nazis and indeed books have been written about it and television programmes have been produced about it.
Moreover it cannot easily be dismissed by the current generation of Sinn Fein as merely some ancient aberration with which they have no connection. The IRA emphasises and honours the idea of continuity with the past. They see themselves as another stage in the struggle, building on the struggles of their forebears and they make much of those who can look bace to earlier generations in their families who perhaps fought in the War of Independence or in the ranks of the IRB.
I hope that members of Sinn Fein will reflect not only on the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps but also the fact that the IRA collaborated with the Nazis, albeit in a wholly incompetent manner. That incompetence does not in any way minimise the guilt of the republican movement.