Holocaust Memorial Day (UK)
Holocaust Memorial Day (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 2,000 local commemorative activities took place in the UK for Holocaust Memorial Day 2013.
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
Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 was launched with a morning of activity at King's Cross Station in London, reflecting the theme of 'Journeys'. The Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP joined survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides to light a candle of remembrance, whilst volunteers engaged with members of the public on the station concourse. The UK Commemorative Event for HMD took place in Westminster in the afternoon. Leader of the Opposition Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP spoke about his parents' journey of escape from the Holocaust. He was joined by hundreds of survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, and political and faith leaders. In the evening the Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP, held a reception at 10 Downing Street for survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, where he spoke about the launch of the UK Holocaust Commission.
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 2004 The United Nations voted, by 149 votes out of 191, to formally commemorate the Holocaust atrocity.
United Nations statement of commitment
- We recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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." 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.
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!, and Terry Sanderson of the British National Secular Society.
In a public and controversial interview on the BBC programme Panorama, 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.
The MCB renewed their boycott for the 2009 commemoration, in reaction the 2008–2009 conflict in Gaza. Despite initially refusing to confirm whether or not they would take part in the 2010 commemoration, they eventually voted to send a junior representative, Dr Shuja Shafi, to attend the event in London.
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. 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." 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." The UK-based Refugee Council also supported this position, since the event was supposed to include "all victims of genocide."
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. 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.
- International Holocaust Remembrance Day
- National Day of Commemorating the Holocaust (Romania)
- Yom HaShoah (Israel)
- MCB - Latest - Press Release
- David Leppard Muslims boycott Holocaust remembrance - Times Online, TimesOnline 23 January 2005
- Peter Tatchell. Muslim Council of Britain - Holocaust prejudice, blog website www.petertatchell.net, 6 January 2005, Accessed 2007-06-18
- Terry Sanderson. Panorama and the MCB, Letter to The Guardian 23 August 2005
- Staff. A transcript of "A question of Leadership", first broadcast 21 August 2005, BBC website
- Response to MCB Complaint, BBC Website
- Dodd, Vikram (3 December 2007). "Muslim Council ends Holocaust memorial day boycott". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
- Hélène Mulholland (22 January 2009). "Muslim Council of Britain boycotts Holocaust day". The Guardian (London).
- Martin Bright (14 January 2010). "Muslim Council of Britain split over Holocaust Day boycott". The Jewish Chronicle.
- Martin Bright (26 January 2010). "Muslim Council rep will attend Holocaust Memorial". The Jewish Chronicle.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fisk, Robert. "Britain excludes Armenians from memorial day." The Independent. 23 November 2000.
- Ahmed, Kamal. "Holocaust Day mired in protest." The Guardian. 21 January 2001. Retrieved 27 January 2007.
- Fisk. The Great War for Civilisation. pp. 347-349