Matthew Wright 7am - 10am
Light the darkness: Holocaust survivors gather in London for Memorial Day
28 January 2022, 00:10 | Updated: 28 January 2022, 00:12
Holocaust survivors have gathered in central London to light candles and remember the victims of genocide on Holocaust Memorial Day.
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A group of nearly 30 survivors and their families stood on the steps of Piccadilly Circus holding flickering candles to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, as well as the millions from other groups killed under Nazi persecution.
The group looked up at the giant billboard, where portraits of them and fellow survivors were displayed.
A film was also screened showing people, including political and religious leaders, lighting candles to mark the day.
People across the country were encouraged to 'light the darkness' by placing candles in their windows at 8pm, with No10 was among those to take part.
UK landmarks - including the London Eye, Charing Cross and the Houses of Parliament - were also lit up in purple on Thursday night to mark the anniversary.
The day, held annually on January 27, is also used to remember the millions killed in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
One of the photographs to appear on the famous Piccadilly Circus billboard - taken by the Duchess of Cambridge - showed survivor Steven Frank.
Born in the Netherlands, Mr Frank was one of 93 children who survived the Theresienstadt ghetto camp out of 15,000 children who were sent there.
His father, an eminent lawyer, was active in the Dutch resistance when the country was under Nazi occupation.
Mr Frank, now in his late 80s, said: "And then one day he went to the office to go to work, and he'd been betrayed, and he was taken away.
"So he ended up in prison, where we know he was tortured, badly beaten, from where he was taken to Westerbork, and from Westerbork to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in the gas chambers on January 21 1943.
"So very, very close to Holocaust Memorial Day, which is so very, very special for me."
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke of the event's significance.
She said: "Holocaust Memorial Day is such an important day for everybody in the country to come together and we're doing so at a time when the world can feel quite fragile and we can quit feel quite vulnerable to division and hostility.
"We only saw yesterday an antisemitic attack with two people being assaulted.
"And that can leave people feeling particularly vulnerable, so to be able to come into the heart of London, into Piccadilly Circus and see photographs of Holocaust survivors in enormous displays, and to be able to celebrate the lives they have rebuilt in Britain just feels a very profound moment."
Laura Marks, chair of the trust, spoke of the meaning of this year's theme, "One Day".
"One day is Holocaust Memorial Day, one day Bergen-Belsen was liberated," she said.
"One day each of our survivors got out or their parents were taken away.
"One day in the future maybe we won't need Holocaust Memorial Day because we'll have learned to tolerate each other, we'll have learned to respect difference, to celebrate difference."
She added: "There's obviously a huge sadness but it's also a hope and that light in the darkness, and I choose to focus on that and think about how together with the candles we can actually change the world we're living in and really light the darkness."
During a special ceremony in Westminster to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle urged people to call out intolerance and work together to build a "happier future".
Sir Lindsay said in his opening address: "The Holocaust threatened the very fabric of civilisation, and genocide must be still resisted every day.
"Our world often feels... vulnerable, and we cannot be complacent. Here in the UK, as elsewhere, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all."
Closing the ceremony, he added: "I hope it has given us all pause for thought to consider how we might call out, counter messages of hate, intolerance, and instead work together to create a better, safer, and a happier future."