What is Holocaust Memorial Day?

We are fast approaching 27th January, the day that symbolises a day of reflection and commemoration of the Holocaust in many countries. For those who know little about Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), I intend to answer a few basic questions regarding the day, and hope that you may feel compelled to attend, or even organise, an event for this occasion.

The logo for Holocaust Memorial Day

Why does HMD take place on 27th January?
27th January 1945 was the date that Soviet troops marched into Auschwitz concentration camp and liberated its remaining prisoners. Many had already been evacuated on Death Marches away from the camp and its liberators; those that were left behind were mostly dead or dying. As Auschwitz has become such a symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, was the largest camp and was liberated months before other camps, it was deemed a suitable day to commemorate all those who had suffered and perished.

Does it focus solely on the Holocaust of the 1940s?
No. Although the words 'never again' have been spoken many times since the Holocaust, sadly, prejudice and hatred have remained, and have once again led to cases of persecution and genocide in some places. Other massacres remembered are those that took place in countries such as Rwanda and Cambodia. The message is still clear; those that gather at these events are showing that they will not forget the victims of intolerance and prejudice, and will stand up to such evils in the world.

What sort of events take place?
As well as national events, many local, smaller-scale services and events are held around the UK on or around HMD. There is a national service attended by survivors, politicians and others (which I myself will be attending); local councils organise events; schools, universities and colleges may have a survivor come and share their testimony, or create displays to raise awareness and remembrance. With such things, the sky really is the limit; if people will get involved, any event is worthwhile.

How can I find/organise an event?
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (www.hmd.org.uk) have a fantastic website which currently has an interactive map showing what events are taking place in different counties across the UK. If you are organising an event and would like to share it, you can also add it to the map.
Alternatively, if you are thinking of organising your own event, it's not too late. The website shares useful hints and tips, and campaign packs - containing posters, leaflets etc. - can be ordered.

I am pleased to say that I am involved in the organisation and participation of a number of upcoming events. I will share information about these over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I strongly encourage readers to make their own events or attend one, even if they are not in the UK, however small they may be. If we all stand united in opposing hatred, racism and intolerance, we may well be able to ensure a 'never again'.