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Progamme of events

Last updated: 2003-12-11

Preparations for Holocaust Memorial Day 2004, which takes place on 27 January, have got underway in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this month Secretary of State, Paul Murphy MP, joined Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Martin Morgan, in signing the original Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment. Full details of the public events taking place in the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day have also been announced.

The Book of Commitment was established for the second Holocaust Memorial Day in 2002 in Manchester. Since then, the book has travelled to Edinburgh and now Belfast. The book contains the Statement of Commitment in gold leaf, and is passed each year to the city hosting the national event, to be signed by its leaders and citizens to endorse these pledges. Belfast City Council has also provided other books at council offices across Northern Ireland available for the public to sign and pledge their support for the statements of commitment for Holocaust Memorial Day.

Paul Murphy said: “As individuals, we must learn to recognise that we have a duty to each other not to stand by but to work together to build a world where common values, rights and safeguards are the cornerstones of a socially inclusive society.”

Tuesday 9 December marked the launch of the programme of events for Holocaust Memorial Day. Over 1000 balloons with Holocaust Memorial Day postcards tagged to them were released. Each postcard invited people to pledge their support for the day. In the run-up to the main event taking place in the Waterfront Hall on the evening of 27 January, Belfast will play host to a wide variety of activities.

Featured in the programme of events is a series of readings from selected scripts and poems which illustrate approaches by a variety of writers to the Holocaust and other genocides.

A new piece of experimental theatre has been created called ‘Quilted’, which questions the way we cushion ourselves from commitment by remaining as observers and bystanders.

Other events include a commemoration of the Holocaust from the Ulster Orchestra written by composers who were inspired by the events of the Holocaust, and others who lost their lives in it, a talk by survivors of the Rwandan genocide, the viewing of a film adapted from a play by Ariel Dorfman and directed by Roman Polanski, and a lecture from Fergal Keane.

Various exhibitions of paintings, photography, artwork, and so on, as well as many activities aimed at schools, colleges and youth organisations, will also be taking place in the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day. A five panel exhibition from The Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibition will also be on show in Belfast City Hall from 7 January.

Holocaust Memorial Day offers an opportunity for people in the 21st Century to reflect upon, consider and discuss how those events still have relevance for all members of society today. Ultimately the day aims to restate the continuing need for vigilance and to motivate people to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation committed during the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated. In recognition that 2004 marks the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda which resulted in the deaths of up to a million people, the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2004 will be ‘From the Holocaust to Rwanda; lessons learned, lessons still to learn.’