Print | Email  

Origins of Holocaust Memorial Day

Last updated: 2003-12-28

Origins of Holocaust Memorial Day

1998 - Task Force and Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets

In May 1998, the Swedish, British and US Governments established the "Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research". They were subsequently joined by Germany, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

At the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets in December of that year, Task Force members issued a joint declaration stating, inter alia, that "Holocaust education, remembrance and research strengthen humanity's ability to absorb and learn from the dark lessons of the past, so that we can ensure that similar horrors are never again repeated." The document also declares that "we are committing our countries to encourage parents, teachers, and civic, political and religious leaders to undertake with renewed vigour and attention Holocaust education, remembrance and research, with a special focus on our own countries' history". Other nations are called upon to strengthen their efforts in these fields, and to undertake new ones where necessary.

1999 - Establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day

On 10 June 1999, in answer to a Parliamentary Question from Andrew Dismore MP, the Prime Minister said 'I am determined to ensure that the horrendous crimes against humanity committed during the Holocaust are never forgotten. The ethnic cleansing and killing that has taken place in Europe in recent weeks are a stark example of the need for vigilance'.

Home Office officials then convened a working group to develop proposals for wider consultation. This group included representatives from the FCO, the then DfEE, DCMS and the London Borough of Barnet, as well as organisations with experience and expertise in Holocaust education and remembrance.

A consultation document was issued in October 1999 to about one thousand individuals and organisations inviting responses by the end of November. Replies were received from 237 targeted organisations and 284 others, a clear majority of whom expressed support for an inclusive and forward looking Holocaust Memorial Day.

It was decided that Holocaust Memorial Day would be commemorated on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau - the first to take place in 2001.

2000 - The Stockholm Conference and the Statement Of Commitment

On 27 January 2000, some forty-four governments from around the world (including the UK) sent delegations to Stockholm, Sweden, to attend the Stockholm Forum on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. The intergovernmental conference, convened by the Swedish Government, set out to give support to education and research in an attempt to better equip governments to combat racism, antisemitism and intolerance as they manifest themselves in modern-day society.

At the conclusion of the conference the heads of delegations unanimously agreed to sign the Declaration of the Stockholm Forum. As part of Britain's Holocaust Memorial Day, the principles of the Declaration have been adopted and adapted into the 'Statement of Commitment', as a benchmark for understanding the aims and objectives of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Related links:

Holocaust Memorial Day