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Belfast hosts HMD

Last updated: 2003-07-08

Secretary of State, Paul Murphy MP, has said that it is important to ensure that racism and intolerance never again give rise to crimes against humanity. He was welcoming the choice by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, that Belfast will host the fourth National Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January 2004.

Mr Murphy said: “I am honoured that Northern Ireland, and in particular Belfast, has been chosen to host the 2004 National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.

“The Northern Ireland commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day held in Belfast in 2002 and in Armagh in 2003 were poignant and moving reminders to us of the great suffering caused during the Holocaust and other more recent acts of genocide in other parts of the world. I am confident that many in society here will look forward to the opportunity of communicating the importance of the lessons learned and still to be learned from these events to ensure that racism and intolerance never again give rise to such horrendous crimes against humanity.”

Holocaust Memorial Day offers modern society the opportunity to remember those who suffered and died during the Holocaust, including those still living with its consequences, and to reflect on the lessons to be learned bearing in mind the repetition of human tragedies and the continuation of different forms of intolerance. In recognition that 2004 will mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda which resulted in the deaths of up to a million people, in a little over 100 days, the theme for the 2004 national commemoration will be “From the Holocaust to Rwanda: lessons learned, lessons still to learn”.

In confirming the choice of Belfast as the host venue David Blunkett said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is vitally important, not just so we remember those who were abused and murdered by the Nazis, but to encourage us to take a critical look at the world today and challenge racism and intolerance head on. That is why it is so significant that next year’s Holocaust Memorial Day will remember the events of 1994 in Rwanda – there are still lessons to be learned and we must not forget where hatred and bigotry can ultimately lead.

“Northern Ireland has a proven commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and I am confident that the 2004 commemoration in Belfast next January will build successfully on the inspiring events organised by previous host authorities.”

The commemoration, which is scheduled to take place in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, in association with Belfast City Council, will be the culmination of a number of events in Belfast and throughout the UK.

Welcoming the announcement, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Martin Morgan said:

“On behalf of the people of Belfast, I am proud that the city has been chosen to host the fourth National Holocaust Memorial Day.

“I am confident that it will be a fitting tribute that will raise our understanding and awareness of the events of the Holocaust and subsequent acts of genocide and provide an opportunity for us all to remember those who suffered. The commemoration will reflect our commitment to promoting a just and socially inclusive society where racism, victimisation and other forms of intolerance have no place.”

Northern Ireland’s historical connections with the events in Europe that led to the Holocaust will form a central part of the Memorial Day.

In the spring of 1939 a 70 acre training farm was established at Millisle, some 17 miles east of Belfast, to provide a safe haven for Jewish refugees, including children, escaping Nazi persecution. In the years 1939-1948 the farm nurtured a community of almost two hundred refugees including a number of survivors of the Holocaust. Some of these former refugees and their families continue to play an active role in Northern Ireland society today. A plaque in the Belfast synagogue acknowledges the role of the community in providing asylum.