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Holocaust Memorial Day? No thanks

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2004-11-19

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day

So what's wrong with Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK? Well to be perfectly frank almost everything.

From the name of the day through to how it is organised. Holocaust Memorial Day is one of those ideas that hasn't really been thought out but has been forced upon the nation when it really is not needed.

For years, there has been a day which recognises what happened and why we never forget.
That day is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Jews all around the world and indeed non-Jews recognise the importance of the day.

It takes place in the Jewish calendar on 27th of Nissan which is in April/May. In 2005 this will be on 6 May whereas Holocaust Memorial Day will be on 27 January.

But rather than be a part of that day, the Government decided to set up its own day and we have had Holocaust Memorial Day since 2001.

So now, we have a situation where we have another day that sees Jews as victims and hardly recognises other people who also suffered at the hands of the Nazis. As we all know, it wasn't just Jews who faced persecution and death from the Nazi regime, it was also gays, gypsies the disabled and anti-Nazis. But the Government-backed Holocaust Memorial Day doesn't always reflect what happened to other people.

Yes it does make some references to others, but it is exactly that "some references".

I can understand why the Government wanted to do this, it is a way of recognising a terrible event and seeing how we can learn from it and try to make sure similar events don't happen.

But, in that context, why couldn't the Government have the vision to call it National Genocide Day where as a country, we look back not only at the past but also at the present and see how we can stop intolerance and what it can lead to.

And now it has been announced that the Government backed Holocaust Memorial Day is to have its own charity with a board of trustees.

Looking through the list, all the people on it are Jewish. There are many non-Jews who could have made a good trustee for this and we need to stop making "Holocaust" projects Jew exclusive. Atleast that is how non-Jews will see it. "Eleven trustees and all of them Jewish?" is what will be asked.

However much the Government tries to "sell" the day as being inclusive, it still comes across as Jewish. Putting together a board of trustees who all happen to be Jewish doesn't really help even if the chair himself, Dr Stephen Smith is not Jewish.

The Holocaust should never be forgotten and the people who suffered should also be remembered, but Holocaust Memorial day is not the right way to do it.

A National Genocide Day means people can share their experiences better and learn from each other, whether it is what is happening today in Africa, recently in Bosnia or what happened in Germany and Poland.

The way forward is a National Genocide Day which looks far beyond the Holocaust and actually embraces all people from all cultures and backgrounds who have suffered and experienced intolerance.