The first national Holocaust Memorial Day was held on 27th January 2001 following the signing of the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust just twelve months before. In January 2000, 46 governments from around the world sent representatives to Stockholm to take part in discussions on how education and remembrance of the Holocaust would be conducted going forward.
All countries in attendance agreed upon and signed the declaration which included commitments such as the promotion of Holocaust education, remembrance and research, commemoration of the loss of life and the honouring of those who defiantly stood against it. Since then, on or around the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, a day of national commemoration provides the opportunity to reflect upon the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and, more recently, Darfur.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust was formed in 2005 to support those who wanted to engage in commemorations and education around the country. In 2016 alone, the HMDT assisted in enabling almost 6,000 individual activities and this week, I look forward to welcoming representatives from the Trust and other related organisations back to Speaker’s House. The event will see speakers such as Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, and Holocaust survivor and HMDT Trustee, Hannah Lewis, engage in conversation and reflect on this particularly terrible period of history.
It is difficult to see how we, as a global community, could ever forget the atrocities committed against our fellow human beings throughout the last 100 years alone. The fact that we can welcome survivors to our commemorative events shows just how fresh these genocides should be in our memories. In times of political uncertainty, both at home and abroad, Holocaust Memorial Day offers the perfect opportunity to come together, learn from the appalling events of the past and continue to fight against persecution and intolerance.
First published in the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser on 25th January and the Bucks Herald on 27th January 2017.