Print | Email  

FAQ about the day

Last updated: 2005-01-26

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day

There are many questions about the days and its purpose. SomethingJewish offers a list of these questions.  From Why have the day on the 27th of January each year through to is the day just about Jewish issues? Find out the answers.

Why 27th January each year?

27th January 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.

27th January is the day chosen by the Governments of a number of other European countries to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, including Sweden, Italy, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Estonia.

27th January is European Day against Genocide.

What are the Day’s aims?

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 antisemitism, racism and all forms of discrimination.
The Day’s aims are set out in more detail in the Holocaust Memorial Day Statement of Purpose. See also the Statement of Commitment.

Why choose the theme of Survivors, Liberation and Rebuilding Lives for 2005?

Survivors still bear the scars of their experiences – and nothing can heal their loss. But we can to some extent make up for the years in which they were ignored by showing our respect for their strength and resilience and by listening to what they can tell us about the best and worst of human behaviour.
Holocaust Memorial Day should be a time to hear the survivors recall their experiences, to reflect on how our society treated them, and to listen to what they can tell us that applies equally well to the world today. It should be a spur to action against all manifestations of racism, intolerance, dehumanisation of ‘the Other’ and incipient genocide.

Our task is to make sure that as many people as possible, especially the young, listen to these survivors from a terrible past that finds echoes in our society - and pledge to them that we will do our utmost to prevent anything like that which they endured ever happening again in Britain or elsewhere in the world.

How was Holocaust Memorial Day established?

The background to the establishment of the Day is set out in the Origins of the Day.

Is this just a Jewish issue?

No. Holocaust Memorial Day is an issue for everyone. Firstly, although the Holocaust was a tragedy whose primary focus was the Jewish people, and the Jewish community have a particular stake in Holocaust remembrance, many other groups were persecuted by the Nazis – 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.
Secondly, 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. 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.

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 is Holocaust Memorial Day relevant to the British public?

Holocaust Memorial Day pursues its aims through local events throughout the UK, promotion of relevant issues in schools, and through a national event which is intended to:

Focus on individuals’ experiences from the Holocaust – and other more recent atrocities that raise similar issues – to raise awareness of what happened.
Provoke people to think about the world around them, their own behaviour and that of others and why the Holocaust is relevant to their lives today.
Confront people about the labels they place on themselves and others (i.e. young, old, teacher, lawyer, father, daughter, black, Muslim). Think about how we are linked to others through identities we share, and how isolating one part of who a person is can make them the victim of discrimination and prejudice.
Challenge the misconception that such events could never happen again, and that the Holocaust is just a historical event.

What about other genocides?

The central focus for Holocaust Memorial Day remains the Holocaust, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on more recent attrocities 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.

What happened to gay survivors after the war?

After the war, the Allies chose not to remove the Nazi-amended Paragraph 175 (criminalising homosexual acts) in their denazification programme. Neither they, nor the new German states, nor Austria, would recognise homosexual prisoners as victims of the Nazis - a status essential to qualify for reparations and support.

People who had been persecuted for being gay had a hard choice: either to bury their experience and pretend it never happened, with all the lifelong personal consequences of such an action, or to try to campaign for recognition in an environment where the same neighbours, the same law, same police and same judges prevailed. Unsurprisingly, very few victims came forward. Those that did - even those who had fought the Nazis and survived death camps - were thwarted at every turn. Few known victims are still alive, but careful research is beginning to reveal the hidden history of Nazi homophobia and post-War discrimination.

Who is responsible for delivering Holocaust Memorial Day?

Responsibility for the Day currently lies with the Home Office. Following consultation with a wide range of individuals and organisations involved in Holocaust remembrance, education and related issues, it was decided that an independent charity would be better placed to take forward the delivery of Holocaust Memorial Day.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is being established in 2005. It will be an independent charity responsible for the Holocaust Memorial Day national event, advice and guidance for local activities, education materials and a website.

(c) Crown Copyright 1995-2004