What is Holocaust Memorial Day?
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) takes place every year on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. It is an international day to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and in the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is an occasion for everyone to come together to learn, remember and reflect.
A Message From The Mayor:
The Council of Europe, founded in 1947 in the aftermath of World War Two and of which the United Kingdom is still a member state, defines Holocaust Remembrance Day as a “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and for the Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity.”.
Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany took state-sponsored murder to new heights with the murder of approximately six million Jews across German-occupied Europe. This obscene tally of deaths equated to around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population at the time.
The mass murders were carried out in purpose-built extermination camps. The names of these camps—emotional names such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Sobibor, and Chemno—are to this day burned into our collective psyche as synonyms for man’s capacity for unimaginable evil, blind prejudice, and abject inhumanity.
But of course, it wasn’t just Jews who were murdered in the Nazi camps of World War Two. Roma, Resistance members, politicians, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the disabled were also all singled out by Nazi Germany for extermination.
THAT was the Shoah. But it wasn’t the only genocide to occur, then or since.
In one of its first acts, the Council of Europe publicly acknowledged that the Nazi Holocaust of the 1940s was and remains part of European history and that, therefore, there is a European responsibility to ensure that it is never repeated.
In the Council of Europe’s own words when establishing Holocaust Remembrance Day, “everything possible should be done in the educational sphere to prevent recurrence or denial of the devastating events that have marked this (the 20th) century, namely the Holocaust, genocides and other crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and the massive violations of human rights and of the fundamental values to which the Council of Europe is particularly committed”.
From this statement, it is very clear that the Council of Europe considers the Holocaust as a paradigm for every kind of human rights violation and crime against humanity.
So, have we as a species actually learned anything from the Nazi atrocities of the mid-twentieth century?
Has the suffering and death of millions of Jews in the extermination camps of the 1940s prevented acts of genocide against whole populations since?
Has our horror at the sights that greeted our grandfathers as they liberated the European extermination camps in the dying days of World War Two led to our universal and even-handed condemnation of acts of genocide today?
The answer to all three of these questions is, unfortunately and tragically, an emphatic NO!
Genocide and the Holocaust both predate the Nazi-instigated Shoah and carry on to this day.
From Josef Stalin’s “Holodomor” to Pol-Pot’s Cambodian “Killing Fields,” Rwanda, Kurdish Iraq, Bosnia, and Darfur, the list remains depressingly long and is, to our shame, constantly being added to.
To this day, acts that could… should… be considered genocidal continue to be perpetrated around the world.
A true legacy and a fitting memorial to the six million Jews who died as a direct result of an unspeakably evil political ideology would be to truly learn from their suffering. and even-handedly condemn crimes against humanity wherever and whenever they occur.
Maybe then we’d finally accept that EVERY human life matters. regardless of race, religion, or any other defining characteristic.
THAT would be a lasting legacy… and a true act of remembrance for the Shoah.
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is a registered charity, funded by the UK Government, to promote and support HMD. They provide resources and support for thousands of HMD activities every year in workplaces, youth groups, museums, prisons, schools, colleges and universities, places of worship, and more.