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Holocaust Memorial Day (UK)

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) (27 January) is a national commemoration day in the United Kingdom dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in The Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It was first held in January 2001 and has been on the same date every year since. The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Union in 1945, the date also chosen for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and some other national Holocaust Memorial Days.

In addition to the national event, there are numerous smaller memorial events around the country organised by many different organisations, groups and individuals. Over 3,600 local commemorative activities took place in the UK for Holocaust Memorial Day 2015, marking the significant 70 year anniversary. Since 2005 Holocaust Memorial Day has been promoted and supported by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a charity set up and funded by the UK Government. The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 will be ‘Don’t Stand By’. The theme will ask everyone to consider their personal responsibility not to be a bystander to persecution and genocide.


  • UK Event 1
  • Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 2
    • UK Commemorative Ceremony 2.1
    • Memory Makers project 2.2
    • Moving Portraits 2.3
    • 70 candles for 70 years with Sir Anish Kapoor 2.4
  • History 3
  • United Nations statement of commitment 4
  • Criticism 5
    • Muslim Council of Britain 5.1
    • Armenians 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

UK Event

Every year since 2001, there has been an annual national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The UK Event has been hosted in:

  • London (2001) — Theme: Remembering Genocides: Lessons for the Future
  • Manchester (2002) — Theme: Britain and the Holocaust
  • Edinburgh (2003) — Theme: Children and the Holocaust
  • Belfast (2004) — Theme: From the Holocaust to Rwanda: lessons learned, lessons still to learn
  • London (2005) — Theme: Survivors, Liberation and Rebuilding Lives, for the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz
  • Cardiff (2006) — Theme: One Person can Make a Difference
  • Newcastle (2007) — Theme: The Dignity of Difference
  • Liverpool (2008) — Theme: Imagine...Remember, Reflect, React
  • Coventry (2009) — Theme: Stand up to Hatred
  • London (2010) - Theme: The Legacy of Hope
  • London (2011) - Theme: Untold Stories
  • London (2012) - Theme: Speak Up, Speak Out
  • London (2013) - Theme: Communities Together: Build a Bridge
  • London (2014) - Theme: Journeys
  • London (2015) - Theme: Keep the Memory Alive

Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

UK Commemorative Ceremony

The UK Commemorative Ceremony for HMD was broadcast by the BBC, attracting 1.3 million viewers. Participants included Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall; the UK Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury; and actors Adrian Lester, John Hurt, Michael Palin, Keeley Hawes, Sarah Lancashire, Christopher Eccleston, and Laurence Fox. Survivors and their experiences were central to the ceremony and survivors made up a significant part of the audience.

The ceremony was preceded by a special reception for survivors and refugees. Guests at the reception included Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, the three main Westminster party leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury, celebrity contributors to the ceremony and members of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission.

Memory Makers project

Eight artists took part in the Memory Makers art project by producing pieces of art in response to meeting Holocaust and genocide survivors. Artists and survivors who took part in the project included:

  • Stephen Fry met with survivor of Auschwitz Anita Lasker-Wallfisch
  • Filmmaker and animator Gemma Green-Hope met Auschwitz survivor Ivor Perl
  • Collage artist and animator Martin O’Neill met Holocaust survivor Bettine Le Beau
  • Severely visually impaired illustrator Kimberley Burrows met Holocaust survivor Sabina Miller
  • Filmmaker Debs Paterson met Holocaust survivor Janine Webber
  • Poet Sarah Hesketh met Holocaust survivor Eve Kugler
  • Ceramicist Clare Twomey met with Nisad ‘Šiško’ Jakupović, who survived the notorious Omarska concentration camp during the Bosnian War. Twomey’s Humanity is in our Hands project asked members of the public what human qualities they believe allow society to flourish. The resulting artwork will be showcased as part of Holocaust Memorial Day 2016.

Moving Portraits

A series of Moving Portraits of Holocaust and genocide survivors screened on big screens in cities across the UK, projected onto London’s Royal Festival Hall, and used in dozens of local HMD commemorations.

70 candles for 70 years with Sir Anish Kapoor

Sir Anish Kapoor designed 70 special commemorative candles, which were lit at 70 HMD activities around the UK, demonstrating the breadth and diversity of the commemorations in every part of the country. Six candles were lit at the UK Commemorative Ceremony to represent the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and a candle was taken to Auschwitz Birkenau by Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.


Since 1996, 27 January has officially been Gedenktag für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (Anniversary for the Victims of National Socialism) in Germany. Italy and Poland have adopted similar memorial days.

On 10 June 1999, Andrew Dismore MP asked Prime Minister Tony Blair about the creation of memorial day for the Holocaust. In reply, Tony Blair also referred to the ethnic cleansing that was being witnessed in the Kosovo War at that time and said:

"I am determined to ensure that the horrendous crimes against humanity committed during the Holocaust are never forgotten. The ethnic cleansing and killing that has taken place in Europe in recent weeks are a stark example of the need for vigilance."

A consultation took place during October of that year. On 27 January 2000, representatives from forty-four governments around the world met in Stockholm to discuss Holocaust education, remembrance and research. At the conclusion of the forum, the delegates unanimously signed a declaration. This declaration forms the basis of the Statement of Commitment (see below) adopted for Holocaust Memorial Day.

In 2005 The United Nations voted, by 149 votes out of 191, to formally commemorate the Holocaust.

United Nations statement of commitment

  1. We recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning.
  2. We believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation's collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us, and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice.
  3. We must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocide.
  4. We value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil.
  5. We recognise that humanity is still scarred by the belief that race, religion, disability or sexuality make some people's lives worth less than others'. Genocide, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still continue. We have a shared responsibility to fight these evils.
  6. We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocide. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt.
  7. We will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, tolerant, and democratic society.


Muslim Council of Britain

Between 2001 and 2007, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) expressed its unwillingness to attend the ceremony. The MCB instead called for a more inclusive day proposing the commemoration of deaths in Palestine, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, along with the Holocaust. In a press release dated 26 January 2001 the Council listed two points of contention that prevented them from attending the event, which were that it "totally excludes and ignores the ongoing genocide and violation of Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere" and that "It includes the controversial question of alleged Armenian genocide as well as the so-called gay genocide."[1] The MCB did not send official representatives to any of the official events associated with Holocaust Memorial Day. The latter policy has been generally referred to as a boycott, although the MCB leadership has objected to the use of that term. In 2005 Iqbal Sacranie suggested that the deaths of Palestinians should also be remembered.[2]

The MCB policy of withholding participation was condemned variously by Labour MP Louise Ellman, Peter Tatchell representing the lesbian and gay human rights group OutRage!,[3] and Terry Sanderson of the British National Secular Society.[4]

In a public and controversial interview on the BBC programme Panorama,[5] Iqbal Sacranie, the then General Secretary of the MCB, denied that the policy constituted a boycott. The MCB subsequently made an official complaint to the BBC that their position had been misrepresented by selective editing of the interview. This complaint was rejected by the BBC.[6]

On 3 December 2007, the MCB voted to end the boycott. Assistant General Secretary Inayat Bunglawala argued it was 'inadvertently causing hurt to some in the Jewish community'.[7]

The MCB renewed their boycott for the 2009 commemoration, in reaction the 2008–2009 conflict in Gaza.[8] Despite initially refusing to confirm whether or not they would take part in the 2010 commemoration,[9] they eventually voted to send a junior representative, Dr Shuja Shafi, to attend the event in London.[10]


The event also drew similar criticism in 2000 from the United Kingdom's Armenian community, which complained that the event remained exclusively for commemorating those who perished in the Holocaust, and not the Armenian Genocide.[11] Neil Frater, an official from Tony Blair's Race Equality Unit, a branch of the Home Office, replied that it had consulted the Holocaust Memorial Day Steering Group on the issue and had agreed that while it understood that the Armenian Genocide was an "appalling tragedy", it wanted to "avoid the risk of the message becoming too diluted if we try to include too much history."[12][13] Frater went on to say that it had gone on with the Steering Group's advice to reject the Genocide, along with the Crusades, colonialism and the Boer War. His comments were received with even more criticism. Zaven Messerlian, the principal of the Armenian Evangelical College in Beirut, Lebanon, stated that "any serious commemoration must include the aetiology of genocide, particularly those of the twentieth century, especially if one encouraged the next."[12] The UK-based Refugee Council also supported this position, since the event was supposed to include "all victims of genocide."[14]

The British government faced a flurry of public criticism for its decision not to include the Armenian Genocide, most notably in the daily newspaper The Independent from its chief Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk.[15] After months of pressure, the government allowed twenty Armenian survivors to attend the event in its first annual commemoration. Armenians contended that the British government held out for so long because it wished to preserve its relationship with the successor state of the Ottoman Empire and NATO ally, Turkey.[14]

See also


  1. ^ MCB - Latest - Press Release
  2. ^ David Leppard Muslims boycott Holocaust remembrance - Times Online, TimesOnline 23 January 2005
  3. ^ Peter Tatchell. Muslim Council of Britain - Holocaust prejudice, blog website, 6 January 2005, Accessed 2007-06-18
  4. ^ Terry Sanderson. Panorama and the MCB, Letter to The Guardian 23 August 2005
  5. ^ Staff. A transcript of "A question of Leadership", first broadcast 21 August 2005, BBC website
  6. ^ Response to MCB Complaint, BBC Website
  7. ^ Dodd, Vikram (3 December 2007). "Muslim Council ends Holocaust memorial day boycott". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  8. ^ Hélène Mulholland (22 January 2009). "Muslim Council of Britain boycotts Holocaust day". The Guardian (London). 
  9. ^ Martin Bright (14 January 2010). "Muslim Council of Britain split over Holocaust Day boycott". The Jewish Chronicle. 
  10. ^ Martin Bright (26 January 2010). "Muslim Council rep will attend Holocaust Memorial". The Jewish Chronicle. 
  11. ^ For a study of these two events in relation to one another, see Robert Melson, Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. ISBN 0-226-51991-0.
  12. ^ a b Fisk, Robert. The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, p. 345. ISBN 1-84115-007-X.
  13. ^ Fisk, Robert. "Britain excludes Armenians from memorial day." The Independent. 23 November 2000.
  14. ^ a b Ahmed, Kamal. "Holocaust Day mired in protest." The Guardian. 21 January 2001. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
  15. ^ Fisk. The Great War for Civilisation. pp. 347-349

External links

  • Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website.
  • About Holocaust Memorial Day.
  • Taskforce for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
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