Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January, is a civic day of remembrance of the Holocaust and other genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. This is made all the more significant this year as we mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
As a community we already have the Jewish day of remembrance, Yom HaShoah which this year begins on 15 April. But how important it is, that the society in which we live also takes this opportunity to remember, commemorate and educate. Last week I was privileged to lead prayers at an event at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office marking Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring the “Righteous Among the Nations”, people who saved Jewish lives, defying the hatred, hostility and widespread indifference towards Jews during the Holocaust. We live in a country where the government, media and civil society place enormous value on Holocaust Memorial Day observance.
This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘keep the memory alive’. To me, keeping the memory alive means that we must not only remember; we must also act. Remembrance alone is not enough; we must educate, and crucially, must fight prejudice and intolerance. Genocide begins with the denial of the humanity of the other. We must never accept the dehumanisation of others through racism, bigotry or sheer indifference. It is our duty to challenge it at every opportunity; all the more so when it occurs within our own communities.