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Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD)

How was Holocaust Memorial Day established?

The Prime Minister of the day, Tony Blair,  announced the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2000, and on 27 January 2001 the UK held it’s first Holocaust Memorial Day with a national ceremony in London, and a different area of the UK hosting the national event every year since.

The decision to establish the day followed a lengthy consultation, which in turn was the result of the establishment of the “Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research”, which was set up in 1998 and includes the governments of Sweden, UK, US, Germany, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

The Task Force’s joint declaration stated that:

Holocaust education, remembrance and research strengthen humanity’s ability to absorb and learn from the dark lessons of the past, so that we can ensure that similar horrors are never again repeated.

The document also declared that:

We are committing our countries to encourage parents, teachers and civic, political and religious leaders to undertake with renewed vigour and attention Holocaust education, remembrance and research, with a special focus on our own countries history.

Why 27 January?

27 January is the day chosen by the Governments of a number of European countries to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, including Sweden, Italy, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Belgium and Poland. The United Nations and the Council of Europe have also marked 27 January as a day of remembrance.

27 January is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where the Nazis established four operational gas chambers with a capacity of over 12,000 murders a day. Auschwitz has come to symbolise the mass murder of European Jewry, along with Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

The Auschwitz complex was made up of several large slave-labour complexes and scores of small slave-labour units, where victims of all backgrounds faced persecution, starvation, torture and death. The Auschwitz complex as a whole has come to represent the brutal ideology of the Nazi regime.

How are genocides other than The Holocaust included?

The Holocaust was a tragedy of immense proportions for the Jewish people. The Jewish community has a particular stake in Holocaust remembrance but many other groups of people who where considered inferior by the Nazis were persecuted.

Holocaust Memorial Day provides a unique opportunity to explore the impact of hatred and intolerance generally as well as specifically. It holds demanding lessons for us all, which are of universal relevance and have implications for us all.

It offers an opportunity for people today, in 21st century Britain, to reflect upon and discuss how those events are relevant for all sections of our society. Each year the day powerfully restates the continuing need for vigilance, motivating people, individually and collectively, to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racist discrimination and victimisation committed during the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated anywhere in the world.

The international conventions adopted after World War 2 were intended to protect humanity from genocide. Yet the tragedies in Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia and Cambodia show that there are still many lessons to be learnt, both for the community of nations and in individual terms. So on the day we remember the Holocaust, it is our duty to bear in mind victims of subsequent genocides. When we pledge, “never again”, our pledge should include renewed efforts to prevent genocide today.

Where can I find out more about Holocaust Memorial Day?

Visit the Holocaust Memorial Day website to find out information regionally or nationally

Last updated: 17/05/2022 12:38

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