Holocaust Memorial Day 2022: UK remembers victims of genocide

27 January 2022, 07:21 | Updated: 27 January 2022, 08:35

600 candles in the shape of the Star of David, in memory of Jewish people murdered in Holocaust
600 candles in the shape of the Star of David, in memory of Jewish people murdered in Holocaust. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Today marks Holocaust Memorial Day, where people across the world come together to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

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The memorial day, which takes place on January 27 each year, marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the largest Nazi death camp, in 1945.

It is also used as a day to remember the millions killed in subsequent genocides since the Holocaust including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

At 8pm, people across the UK are being asked to "Light the Darkness" by lighting candles and safely putting them in their windows to remember those "who were murdered for who they were" and to "stand against prejudice and hatred today".

Sir Lloyd Dorfman, a trustee of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation – which is behind a proposed memorial next to the Houses of Parliament – this morning gave LBC an update on the "wonderful project... which would be the most prestigious location of any holocaust centre in the world".

He told Nick Ferrari: "We have received planning permission, regrettably there is a small group of people who are trying to stop it and who have managed to engineer a judicial review which I believe is being heard in the next four to six weeks and that's really sad."

He added that the project has been "endorsed by the five living prime ministers, the Archbishop of Canterbury" and that he hoped it would be finished in time for "enough survivors... [to] see that what they had to endure and suffer all those years ago has been turned into something positive in this most prestigious of locations."

"It's a sad reflection that we have to go through this but I’m ever the optimist, hopefully we'll get through the judicial review and we'll build a world class learning centre," he continued.

Sir Lloyd emphasised the importance of the memorial "at a time of record levels of anti-Semitism", pointing to "the Texas incident with the synagogue only a couple of weeks ago, the bus incident in Oxford Street, only today I saw that somebody in Washington has been prosecuted for wearing a t-shirt that said Camp Auschwitz which is disgusting."

"It's really important that we do this, we build this learning centre," he said.

Last night, faith leaders gathered to light six hundred candles at an event at York Minster's Chapter House, forming the Star of David to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Second World War.

The Reverend Canon Maggie McLean, York Minster's Canon Missioner, who attended the event said: "The international theme for the 2022 commemoration is 'One Day' which encourages people to come together to remember and learn about the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur."

She added: "This is in the hope that in the future, there may be 'One Day' with no genocide. We learn more about the past, we empathise with others today, and we take action for a better future."

Earlier this week the Prince of Wales hailed seven portraits of some of the nation's last remaining Holocaust survivors as a "powerful testament" to their lived experience.

Charles commissioned the paintings of the elderly men and women to stand as a lasting reminder of the horrors of the Nazi regime, and was left moved after meeting one sitter who showed the prince her concentration camp tattoo.

Auschwitz survivor Lily Ebert, 98, whose picture was unveiled with six others at the Queen's Gallery in London, also showed the heir to the throne a golden pendant she hid from camp guards in her shoe then later in her daily bread ration.

She told the prince during the event held on Monday: "Meeting you, it is for everyone who lost their lives," and Charles replied: "But it is a greater privilege for me," and touched her shoulder.

In the foreword for a catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Charles wrote we are all "responsible for one another, for our collective history".

He added: "One of the starkest reminders of this was the Holocaust, when a third of Europe's Jews were brutally murdered by the Nazi regime as it sought to extinguish not just the Jewish people, but Judaism.

"Seven portraits. Seven faces. Each a survivor of the horrors of those years, who sought refuge and a home in Britain after the war, becoming an integral part of the fabric of our nation.

"However, these portraits represent something far greater than seven remarkable individuals. They stand as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women, and children whose stories will never be told, whose portraits will never be painted." "

The 98-year-old Mrs Ebert showed the future king her pendant and rolled up the sleeve of her jacket to reveal the tattoo on her left forearm A-10572 - A for Auschwitz, 10 her block number and 572 her prisoner number.

In July 1944, a 20-year-old Mrs Ebert and her family - mother and five siblings - were transported to Auschwitz.

Her parent and some of her siblings were condemned to death in the gas chamber after encountering the infamous Josef Mengele, notorious for his experiments on those in the camp, while the remaining family members were put to work.

Speaking about her pendant in the shape of angel she said: "This necklace is very special. It went through Auschwitz and survived with me. Auschwitz took everything, even the golden teeth they took off people. But this survived.

"I put it in the heel of my shoe but the heel wore out so ... I put it every day in the piece of bread that we got to eat. So that is the story of it. I was five years old when I got it from my mother for my birthday.

"My mother did not survive. My little brother and little sister did not survive.

"They arrived and they saw Dr Mengele, he took them straight away. I have worn my necklace every day since I survived."

Among the seven survivors whose portraits are hung in the gallery is Helen Aronson who, with her mother and brother, was among a group of around 750 people liberated from a Nazi-run ghetto in Poland out of 250,000 people sent there.

The family had been separated from her father who had been murdered by the Nazis.

Charles, who is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, also commissioned portraits of Manfred Goldberg, Arek Hersh, Anita Lasker Wallfisch, Rachel Levy and Zigi Shipper.