On 27th January we remember the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children during the Second World War.
Between 1939 and 1945, Jews across Europe were forced into ghettos, separated from the rest of their towns and villages, starved, beaten, and deported to concentration and death camps where they were murdered. Other communities were killed in forests and other locations, close to where they had lived for centuries. The Nazis attempted to kill every Jew, wherever they could be found.
Britain and its allies fought the Nazis and in the final months of the war, many soldiers witnessed horrific scenes as they liberated the camps. These memories stayed with them for the rest of their lives, and many veterans were never able to speak about what they saw.
After the war, several survivors having lost parents and siblings, and having experienced unimaginable horrors, eventually came to Britain and rebuilt their lives. These people, who are now in their 80s and 90s, have made amazing contributions to British society, becoming teachers, dentists, architects, businessmen and even Olympic champions.
The crimes of the Nazis shook the world, and are remembered every year on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January, the day that the notorious concentration and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated. On Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. We also remember other victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma and Sinti community, homosexuals, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and political opponents. We remember the atrocities of the past and pledge to ensure that mankind does not repeat the same mistakes again.
The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘Ordinary People.’ This theme invites us to consider the millions of ordinary people affected by the events of the Holocaust and the hundreds of communities that were destroyed or changed forever. We can also stop and reflect on the many ordinary people who risked their lives to save or hide the Jews of Europe. Or, we might want to think about the ordinary people who perpetrated these events in a bid to understand where hatred and antisemitism can ultimately lead.