Holocaust Education Ireland (HEI) has warned that far-right extremism is threatening to diminish learnings from the Holocaust.

The comments were made at an event at the Mansion House in Dublin to mark the annual International Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Chairperson of HEI said the rise of far-right extremists is "highlighting the scourge of misinformation, antisemitism, all forms of racism and the trend towards Holocaust distortion and denial."

Professor Thomas O'Dowd said "it is vital that the lessons from the Holocaust are never forgotten and that we guard against antisemitism, Holocaust denial and hate speech."

"These declarations and acts were hateful and wrong in the 1930s and remain so today."

Speaking at the commemoration, Professor O’Dowd said "Holocaust Memorial Day cherishes the memory of all of the people who perished in the Holocaust and recalls the millions of victims who were persecuted because of their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliations or their religious beliefs."

He said there are "a small handful of Jewish survivors here in Ireland who were themselves victims of the Holocaust all those years ago."

"With each passing year, we are mindful of their declining numbers as we undertake to tell their stories and recall what happened to their families and compatriots."

The HEI chairperson said it is essential "the Nazi rhetoric of the 1930s that ultimately led to the Holocaust" is recalled.

He people should "never be complacent about the dangerous potential of such hateful rhetoric" and he stressed "there is no place for it in Ireland."

'Impossible to describe'

Holocaust survivors and second and third-generation descendants of survivors were among those in attendance at the ceremony in the Mansion House.

Tomi Reichental, who was born in Slovakia in 1935, came to Ireland in 1959.

He was just nine years old when he was captured by the Nazis along with my mother, brother, grandmother, aunt, and cousin.

He was taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he was held from November 1944 until the liberation of the camp in April 1945.

Tomi Reichental speaking at the Mansion House

Mr Reichental described how his family was "herded into a cattle car and from that moment onwards, we were treated worse than animals."

"There was no privacy or hygiene, the stench and conditions were unbearable," he added.

He said "the starvation, the cruelty of the camp guards, the cold and disease" he witnessed as a nine-year-old boy "is impossible to describe."

Another survivor, Suzi Diamond, was born in Hungary in 1942 and was sent with members of her family to the Bergen-Belsen concentration in 1944.

Speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, she said "I am mindful that time is passing too quickly for my contemporaries and for me."

"What we experienced took place in the middle of the last century, far too distant for young people today to understand the enormity of what happened," she added.

"Six million Jews murdered because of their faith. More than the population of Ireland."

Ms Diamond used the event to urge young people to "speak out about hate speech, about bullying, and about Holocaust denial."

"I implore them to tell our story and to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive."

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman also spoke at the event, along with the Lord Mayor of Dublin Councillor Caroline Conroy.

As part of the ceremony, students from Stratford College in Dublin, Presentation College in Kilkenny, Gorey Community School and St David's Holy Faith Secondary School in Greystones read from the Scrolls of Names, remembering victims of the Holocaust.

Representatives from the communities who were targeted during the Holocaust because of their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, political views or religious beliefs, participated in a candle-lighting ceremony to remember all those who died.

In his address, the Taoiseach said "this year, the need to remember the horrors of the Holocaust seem particularly significant, the need to be ever vigilant, to truly understand the extent of the dangers of dehumanising individuals."

He said "racism and hatred and violence can never be tolerated."

Mr Varadkar said "our strong commitment to the memory of the Holocaust involves combating all forms of antisemitism, racism, xenophobia, and intolerance in society."

"The ever-growing presence of hate speech ever compounded by conflict, racism, and misogyny threatens our fundamental aspirations under the UN Charter," he added.

The Taoiseach said "fundamental to combating these issues and achieving these freedoms is a commitment to promote remembrance and education about the catastrophic events, in particularly the Holocaust, in our schools and universities and communities."

"We must ensure that future generations understand and recognise the ideologies, the actions and beliefs that led to atrocities such as the Holocaust."