‘Rwandan genocide eye-witness Alex Ntung spoke movingly to Sussex Police staff for HMD. Following this, staff were inspired to implement a programme of speakers to ensure that the message of HMD is continued throughout the year.’ Shannon Marchesani, Diversity Team, Sussex Police
HMD is not just one day
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is a time for everyone to remember the attempted annihilation of Europe’s Jewish population, Europe’s Roma and Sinti Gypsies, and the many other victims of Nazi Persecution. HMD also highlights the importance of commemorating the genocides that have happened subsequently in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. HMD is not only a time for commemoration, but a time to honour the survivors of these regimes of hatred and an opportunity to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.
The impact of your HMD activity can last for longer than the Day itself – your activity may lead to other activities, it may inspire different behaviours or attitudes, and it can have a lasting effect on participants.
27 January provides the focus for commemorative activities to take place, but there are plenty of opportunities to raise awareness of the issues raised by HMD throughout the rest of the year. Many different groups choose to commemorate HMD because it helps support important organisational objectives such as education, inclusion, diversity and community cohesion.
Sussex Police have shown how HMD can provide a strong focus for an ongoing programme of equalities work. There are other examples of HMD having impact beyond 27 January. At Exeter Prison there was a significant reduction in annual hate related incidents amongst prisoners following HMD commemoration and other equalities work. Celtic Football Club launched a cross-curricular educational programme with local secondary schools for HMD 2013, which continued to run over the summer.
HMD provides an important opportunity to reflect on the atrocities of history in the context of our lives today. If you’d like to find out more about the broader potential impact of HMD in your community read on or get inspired by other activity organisers’ stories.
HMD throughout the year
Consider following up, or preparing for, your HMD activity, with activities or references to the following:
February is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) History Month and a time to celebrate the achievements of the LGBT community. It encourages everyone to see diversity and cultural pluralism as the positive forces that they are and endeavour to reflect this in all that we do.
LGBT History Month is a time to learn more about the treatment of gay people by the Nazis, and listen to the stories of those who were persecuted under the Nazi regime. Pierre Seel and Rudolf Brazda, are examples of gay men who told their stories as a warning to future generations of what can happen when we don’t respect differences.
Visit the LGBT History Month website
World Book Day is a chance to celebrate books and reading and is marked in over 100 countries throughout the world. World Book Day aims to encourage all young people to gain enjoyment through reading.
There are a number of books which can introduce children to the enormity of the Holocaust and the meaning of Holocaust Memorial Day. HMDT has produced book group activities for young readers ranging from picture books such as Little Boy Star for 4-8 year-olds, Malka for secondary school students and One Last Summer for students over 16.
Book group activities are also available for an older audience featuring a wide range of novels and memoirs from the Holocaust and subsequent genocides including The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Book Thief.
Visit the World Book Day website
On International Women's Day individuals, groups and communities across the world celebrate the achievements of women everywhere.
Designated as an annual commemoration in 1975 by the United Nations, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight the amazing stories of the millions of girls and women who displayed courage and strength in the face of the horrors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Ceija Stojka, Sabina Miller and Lily Ebert are just a handful of examples of these inspiring women.
Visit the International Women's Day website
World Storytelling Day is a day for everyone to celebrate the art of oral storytelling.
Survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides share their life stories with us for all different reasons, including coming to terms with what has happened to them, helping them rebuild their lives and doing their part to ensure that the crimes of the past are not forgotten or repeated. Other people, who have had experience of genocide, can also help us to understand these terrible events.
British Diplomat Mukesh Kapila, who was head of the UN in Sudan, witnessed the start of the genocide in Darfur in April 2004 and alerted the international media even though it cost him his career – you can listen to Mukesh’ story.
World Storytelling Day is an opportunity for you to share a story of someone who has been involved in genocide and to help to raise awareness of Holocaust Memorial Day.
World Poetry Day is a United Nations day to reflect on the power of language. Poetry can help us to contribute to creative diversity, making us question our use of words, our modes of perception and understanding of the world.
On this day, you can take the opportunity to read or share a poem about persecution which represent a variety of experiences from those during the Holocaust and more recent genocides.
A poem can often sum up in a few words a range of experiences and emotions. For example, Pavel Friedmann’s poem The Butterfly. Pavel was a young Jewish man from the Theresienstadt Ghetto wrote this poem during his time there. He was later deported to Auschwitz and died on 29 September 1944.
Visit the World Poetry Day website
International Roma Day is a celebration of Roma history and traditions. The day also draws attention to discrimination directed to Roma communities globally and to call for human rights of all to be respected and observed.
This day provides an opportunity to learn about the stories of those individuals and communities who suffered persecution during the Porrjamos (the word given to the attempted annihilation of Roma people by the Nazis).
This day can also be linked to Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month which takes place throughout June.
Visit the International Roma Day website
Introduced in 1953, Yom HaShoah, is the date in the Jewish calendar to mourn the loss of those murdered during the Holocaust and the damage and destruction caused to millions more lives. It is a day for internal reflection, often held within the synagogue or the wider Jewish community. Yom HaShoah falls on the Hebrew date of 27 Nisan; the date changes annually in the Gregorian calendar but it falls within April or May.
Jewish communities see the day as an opportunity to educate children, pass on the torch of remembrance, honour the victims and recognise the achievements of the survivors and refugees who have contributed to society today.
Visit the Yom HaShoah website
International Day Against Homophobia is another opportunity to renew your commitment to equalities. During this month you can find out more about the persecution of gay people by the Nazis, as well as issues of contemporary hate crime today.
This day can also be linked to LGBT History Month which takes place throughout February.
June is Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month (GRTHM) - an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness of GRTHM history and culture. GRTHM is a chance to challenge myths and to tackle contemporary prejudice relating to GRTHM communities in the UK.
Roma and Sinti Gypsy communities were targeted by the Nazis for annihilation in what is known as the Porrajmos. During GRTHM, you can find out more about this specific history relating to Roma and Sinti communities.
The month also provides an opportunity to learn about the stories of those individuals and communities who suffered persecution. Through art and storytelling Ceija Stojka, a Roma woman, worked to raise awareness of Roma culture and the horrors of the Porrajmos, experienced by herself, her family and many other Roma Gypsies.
The third week in June marks Refugee Week in the UK, a time for us to celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK. The week aims to deliver positive messages that counter fear, ignorance and stereotypes of refugees through focussing on the contributions made by refugees to our society today.
Our communities are made up of individuals with a multitude of different backgrounds which help to make the UK a diverse and exciting place to live. During Refugee Week we can explore why people might seek sanctuary in countries like the UK. Amongst many others, people who fled from persecution during the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and the subsequent genocides have rebuilt their lives and created new communities in Britain.
Refugee Week is a chance to highlight the voices of those survivors who sought sanctuary in the UK, like Martin Stern, a Holocaust survivor, or Sokphal Din, a survivor of the Genocide in Cambodia. From these voices we can begin to understand what can happen if we leave intolerance unchecked, and fulfil our responsibility to learn about the diverse communities within the UK, to help us respect each other’s differences and prevent hatred and discrimination in our society. Also see World Refugee Day.
Visit the Refugee Week website
World Refugee Day is a UN day to recognise and celebrate the contribution of refugees to societies across the world and can be used in a similar way to Refugee Week.
Both before and after the Holocaust, refugees came to Britain; many settled in the country and have contributed to the economic, social and cultural growth of the nation.
Following the events of Kristallnacht the British Government agreed to allow Jewish children to travel to Britain to escape Nazi persecution. This unique programme, known as the Kindertransport, saved the lives of 10,000 children from Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
By 1939, Britain was host to over 60,000 refugees, some 50,000 of whom settled permanently. After liberation from the concentration camps, many survivors also came to Britain and rebuilt their lives here. Their stories help us to learn important lessons of what can happen when we leave intolerance unchecked.
Visit the World Refugee Day website
United Nations’ International Youth Day is an opportunity for governments and others to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. Thousands of young people in youth groups, schools, colleges, faith groups and in their wider communities participate in activities to mark HMD.
Through youth participation we can ensure that future generations continue to learn the important messages of HMD; what can happen when we don’t respect differences. Young people also carry forward the memory of the Holocaust and the subsequent genocides, to future generations. Our Youth Champion programme empowers young people to be the driving force of Holocaust Memorial Day. You can find out more about the Youth Champion programme and ways that you can get involved.
Visit the International Youth Day website
First celebrated in Britain in 1987, Black History Month recognises, embraces and celebrates the positive contributions of Black communities to the UK. During October, communities throughout the UK come together to highlight the history, culture and heritage of people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. The month emphasises the importance of cross cultural engagement and learning by reflecting on the past.
During Black History Month we can reflect on the Black and Ethnic Minority communities who have come to the UK as a result of more recent genocides and how their experiences contribute to what we know about these events.
By learning about different histories we can begin to understand each other better and work together to create a stronger more inclusive society, free from prevent hatred and discrimination in the UK.
The third week of November is Inter Faith Week - an opportunity to strengthen and develop interfaith relations and to provide an awareness of the varied and distinct faith communities in the UK. The week acts as a celebration of the contributions made by people of different faiths to their communities and to wider society as a whole. Inter Faith Week is also an occasion to gain a greater understanding of peoples’ faiths, as well as involving those who have no specific religious beliefs.
Inter Faith Week is an opportunity to learn about those who have been persecuted simply because of the faith they were born into or the beliefs they held, for example Jewish people during the Holocaust.
We can also listen to the stories from individuals and communities who saved others of different faiths to themselves. During the Holocaust many Jewish refugees were saved by Muslim communities in Albania. After the war people from these communities were given the title of ‘Righteous Muslims’.
Visit the Inter Faith Week website