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Theme for 2004

Last updated: 2003-12-28

As outlined in the Statements of Purpose and Commitment, Holocaust Memorial Day is about both past and present. It is about commemorating and continuing to learn from the events of the Holocaust, and about relating those lessons to the ever-changing world around us.

The provision of a different theme for each year's commemoration reflects and aids this process. Rather than leaving us to contemplate the Holocaust simply in its sheer enormity, the theme provides a focal point, facilitating the development of deeper understanding about different aspects of the Holocaust and the implications these have today.

For 2004, the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is 'From the Holocaust to Rwanda: lessons learned, lessons still to learn'.

However, this and every year, 'Britain and the Holocaust', adopted as the main theme in 2002, will form the backdrop to the Day. The key tasks of HMD are to make people understand that the Holocaust is part of British history, that is relevant to Britain today and that it offers important lessons for British citizens in the Twenty First Century.

The relevance of Holocaust Memorial Day

As well as providing a national mark of respect for the victims of Nazi persecution and those who still suffer its consequences, Holocaust Memorial Day aims to raise awareness and understanding of how the events of the Holocaust are a continuing issue of fundamental importance.

In particular the Day offers an opportunity for people in 21st century Britain to reflect upon, consider and discuss how those events still have relevance for all members of today's society. 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.

A theme each year

Since Holocaust Memorial Day began it has focused each year on a theme , highlighting specific topics or concepts and supported in the last two years by a paper examining the issues in some depth. Although people may choose to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in different ways, these themes aim to encourage debate around particular aspects of the Holocaust and help event organisers narrow down what can be an immense and daunting subject.

Why look at Rwanda?

One way we can remind ourselves of the relevance of the Holocaust is to look at more recent atrocities that raise similar issues - showing that genocide did not end with the Holocaust, and that in the years since, many of the human tragedies witnessed in the Holocaust have recurred, albeit in different contexts and circumstances. The Rwandan genocide is one example.

Although comparisons between the Holocaust and any other event are not necessary in order to 'learn the lessons', it does seem appropriate, however, to ask the question; 'So what have we learned?' Given that the year 2004 will mark the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, it is fitting to consider this question in the theme for that year's Holocaust Memorial Day.

But how are events such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide relevant to 21st Century Britain? There are two broad ways in which they are very significant. Firstly, they act as warnings of where racism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination can lead (in combination with other factors) and so allow us as individuals to reflect on our own responsibility to tackle these issues personally and in our society at large. Secondly, we can consider how Britain and the British respond to atrocities in other parts of the world.

Related links:

Holocaust Memorial Day