What is Holocaust Memorial Day?

Holocaust Memorial Day is about commemorating all of the communities who suffered as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, and demonstrating that the Holocaust is relevant to everyone in the UK today. The day provides a focus – through the national and local events and activities – for people to think about the continuing repercussions of the Holocaust and more recent genocides on our society.

The central focus for Holocaust Memorial Day remains the Holocaust, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on more recent atrocities that raise similar issues. The tragedies of Rwanda, Kosovo and other terrible events in the world show that there are still many lessons to be learnt, both in international and individual terms.

In the UK, hundreds of events and activities are held to mark the Day. A different part of the UK hosts the national commemoration each year, so far it has been held in London (2001 & 2005), Manchester (2002), Edinburgh (2003), Belfast (2004) and Cardiff (2006). Newcastle will be hosting the national event in 2007.

Every year, a different theme is announced for Holocaust Memorial Day. This provides a focus for events and education in local and national commemorations. In 2007, the theme is “The Dignity of Difference” . Previous years’ themes are available online.

When is Holocaust Memorial Day?

Holocaust Memorial Day is on 27th January. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, seen as a powerful symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust.

What does Holocaust Memorial Day aim to achieve?

Holocaust Memorial Day’s aims are to:

Remember all victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution ; Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), East European civilians, Russian prisoners of war, trade unionists, communists, political opponents, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay men and lesbians and Black Germans.

Reflect upon those affected by more recent atrocities, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. Educate about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of discrimination.

Ultimately the day aims to restate the continuing need for vigilance and to motivate people, individually and collectively, to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation committed during the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated, whether in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

The Day’s aims are set out in more detail in the Holocaust Memorial Day Statement of Purpose.

Why is Holocaust Memorial Day relevant to me?

The Holocaust was a defining event of the 20th century and is part of the UK’s history. Although mainland Britain and Northern Ireland were not occupied during WW2, the impact on Britons was significant and wide-ranging:

- Refugees fled here from Nazi persecution

- Britain was engaged in a war to defeat the attempt of the Nazis to occupy and oppress the European continent with its supremacist ideology

- UK soldiers liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

- Survivors and refugees who rebuilt their lives here are part of our heritage

- Britain played a lead role in developing the international conventions protecting universal human rights, after WW2, the world came to terms with the impact of Nazi policies.

Nazi ideology was founded on racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination, creating a fascist state that rejected human and civil rights. The evils of prejudice, discrimination and intolerance continue to exist in Britain. We have lessons to apply today, as individuals, communities and institutions within our society. Progress has been made, which we need to protect, however, Hate crimes and attacks against people because of their race or ethnicity, because of their sexuality, because they are disabled or because of their religion continue to take place. The Day acts as a reminder to all of us of our responsibility to protect the civil and human rights of all people in our society and as part of the international community.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an issue for everyone. The lessons of the Holocaust are of universal relevance and have implications for us all. Holocaust Memorial Day offers an opportunity for people in the UK in the 21st century to reflect upon, consider and discuss how those events still have relevance for all members of today’s society without detracting from or lessening the Jewish aspect of Holocaust remembrance. Holocaust Memorial Day is distinct from Yom HaShoah, the Jewish day of remembrance for the Jewish victims of the Nazis that falls in late April.

How can I participate?

Events are held all over the country and are open to all. These range from civic ceremonies to theatre performances. Anyone can organise an activity to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, please see our local activity section for more information.

How is Holocaust Memorial Day commemorated internationally?

In May 1998, the Swedish, UK and US Governments established the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. They were subsequently joined by Germany, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, France and Italy, and there are now 25 member countries (

In 2000, Prime Minister, Tony Blair announced the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day. It was decided that the first Day would take place in 2001.

At the same time in January 2000, forty four governments from around the world sent delegations to Stockholm, Sweden, to attend the Stockholm International Forum on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. At the end of the conference, the heads of delegation unanimously signed The Stockholm Declaration. The principles of the declaration have been adapted to form the UK’s Statement of Commitment underpinning Holocaust Memorial Day.

In October 2005, the United Nations designated 27th January as International Holocaust Memorial Day.


Light A Candle for Holocaust Memorial Day

If you want to show your support for Holocaust Memorial Day this year, why not join us in ‘lighting a candle’? On your own or with a group of people, this simple but powerful action serves as a remembrance of the millions of people who were killed in the Holocaust and other genocides, just because they were “different”. It also symbolises our commitment to learning the lessons of the past and creating an inclusive society for the future.

You could light a candle or even organise your own candle-inspired activities, such as putting together a mural of candle pictures, projecting a candle image or placing a candle image on your website.

Lighting a candle is a Jewish custom to remember people who have passed away. It is also symbolic in many other faiths including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a time for us to remember those who have suffered and lost their lives during the Holocaust and other atrocities. By lighting a candle you are showing your support at embracing diversity and dispelling the darkness that racism, oppression and ignorance can lead to.

Source: HMD