On Holocaust Memorial Day 2015, Communities ministers have paid tribute to the survivors, whose commitment to living testimony has ensured that successive generations understand and do not forget the tragedy of Europe’s darkest chapter.
This year is significant as it marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who is attending the commemoration ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland said:
Today 70 years ago, the world awoke to the horrors of what man is truly capable of. The scale of the tragedy does not fade with time, but the personal memories grow fainter with each passing milestone.
Among the millions who died we remember the individuals, the men, women and children with hopes and aspirations extinguished and the families who suffered. But we must also celebrate the remarkable resilience of those who went on to rebuild their lives, the many who settled here in Britain, called this country their home and made us richer for their contribution.
We owe it to the survivors that their legacy never fades.
Held each year on the day Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops, this world-wide event commemorates all the communities that suffered as a result of the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:
This year, the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is “Keep the memory alive”. By making this pledge we can all pay tribute to all those innocent lost lives in Nazi occupied Europe, in the killing fields of Cambodia, and the churches of Rwanda.
Today we remember all of the victims persecuted by the Nazis. This year we also mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica. To imagine that such evil could take place in modern Europe during our lifetime, half a century after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau reminds us that the lessons of history can be tragically short.
Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us of the vital importance of confronting the dangers of antisemitism, racism and discrimination in all its forms and the importance of never standing aside when we encounter prejudice and hatred.
Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon said:
A few weeks ago I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau for the first time. I saw the wrought iron work, the guard’s towers and the railway tracks. Auschwitz-Birkenau is more than bricks and mortar, it stands as a blight on the history of mankind in a dark chapter in human history. Yet today it also serves as a centre of education, it ensures that the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten and indeed become part of the learning of our future generations.
It is education that is crucial to fighting discrimination and through projects such as the Anne Frank Trust we are ensuring that young people challenge prejudice of all kinds and embrace positive attitudes, personal responsibility and respect for others and their beliefs.
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It also marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia.
The Department for Communities and Local Government funds the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to raise awareness of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. They support local organisations to hold their own activities for Holocaust Memorial Day and help learn the lessons of the past to create a safer future. Last year over 2,400 activities took place across the UK. This year to highlight the range and diversity of all the activities taking place, 70 towns and cities across the country will host one of 70 specially designed candles commissioned to mark the anniversary. See more information on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website.
Testimonies of Holocaust and genocide survivors provide a unique insight into the experience of those who have suffered exclusion and persecution. See detailed personal accounts.
The Department for Communities and Local Government funds the Anne Frank Trust which challenges all forms of prejudice and discrimination among 20,000 young people, and inspires them to become active and responsible members of their community. For more information see the Anne Frank Trust website.
The government has contributed £2.1 million to the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to help ensure the lessons of Auschwitz live on for generations to come. The contribution is primarily funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The memorial covers almost 200 hectares of grounds, 155 buildings, and 300 ruins, including the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, as well as a permanent exhibition of over 100,000 personal items belonging to those murdered, archived documents, and the works of art made by prisoners.