EVENTS to mark the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp will take place in the UK and worldwide, on January 27.
Dozens of events and exhibitions across Britain will remember the victims of the Holocaust, who were murdered in a systematic attempt to wipe all traces of the Jewish race from Europe.
During the Second World War, six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. An estimated 1.1 million people lost their lives in Auschwitz concentration camp and 90 per cent of those were Jewish, with the remaining 10 percent made up of Polish, Russian and Romany people.
January 27, 1945 is carved in history as the day the Soviets liberated Auschwitz, eight months before the official end of the war. Devastatingly, by the time the Soviet army descended, many of the remaining ‘prisoners’ had already been sent on a death march.
The lessons of the Holocaust are many and the subject is still a compulsory part of the British history curriculum, teaching children what can happen when hatred trumps tolerance. Few are not moved by the distressing stories and images that have outlived the concentration camps, but most find it hard to comprehend how racial hatred and religious persecution could end in genocide on European soil, or how its countries were engulfed by war in the 20th Century.
Yet just 71 years later and Europe is once again knocking on the door of catastrophe, contending with millions of migrants fleeing a war that is expanding its territory as DAESH and similar militant groups go global and political power play between the world’s most-armed countries threatens to come to a head.
It would be easy to suspect foul play on witnessing the boatfuls of migrants arriving on Europe’s shores by the day, defining oneself against them by assuming that ‘the enemy is within.’ But these entrenched prejudices are the first step along the road to intolerance, and can only end in the type of conflict which most young Europeans thought, or hoped, they would never witness in their lifetimes.
UK events marking Holocaust Memorial Day began in 2001. Each year has a special theme, with past events focusing on “lessons for the future” and “one person can make a difference.”
The theme for 2016 is ‘don’t stand by’ which focuses on taking personal responsibility for the world we live in.