By KLTV Newsdesk –
On this solemn occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, the world comes together to remember the millions of lives lost during one of the darkest chapters in human history. Saturday 27th January, 2024, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp, by Soviet forces in 1945.
Fragility of Freedom
Holocaust Memorial Day serves as a poignant reminder of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, where six million Jews, along with millions of other innocent people, were systematically persecuted and murdered by the Nazis during World War II. The theme for this year’s commemoration is ‘Fragility of Freedom’, highlighting the various ways freedom can often be taken for granted, and why it is so important to fight for true freedom for all. You can learn more about this year’s theme on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s website.
The concept of freedom varies among individuals, yet a common thread emerges in the context of genocides throughout history. Victims of persecution in these tragic events invariably experience a gradual erosion and deprivation of their freedom before becoming victims of violence.
Across the globe, people are gathering in various cities, towns, and communities to participate in events that pay homage to the victims and survivors. Memorial services, educational programs, and art exhibitions foster remembrance and promote awareness about the consequences of discrimination, prejudice, and hatred.
Government officials, religious leaders, and community members are joining hands to underscore the importance of preserving the memory of the Holocaust for future generations. In the UK, 6 million candles will be lit in a digital vigil across billboards to represent the 6 million lives lost. These events aim to encourage dialogue on tolerance, diversity, and the collective responsibility to prevent such atrocities from happening again.
Educational institutions are playing a pivotal role in ensuring that the lessons of the Holocaust are integrated into the curriculum. Throughout the week, students have been engaged in discussions, documentaries, and other educational activities to deepen their understanding of the historical events that unfolded during that dark period.
This week, the University of Huddersfield and Holocaust Centre North held a memorial day of commemoration, featuring meetings with holocaust survivors and their families, the dramatisation of a poem by refugees from the 6 million+ Trust, and a talk with Dieudonne Manirakiza, called ‘Reconciliation is better than being right’.
Dieudonne hails from Burundi and came to the UK in 2002 seeking refuge. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, he became a member of CFOR, an organisation that engaged with both victims and perpetrators, working towards fostering reconciliation. The talk highlighted both the fragility of freedom even today, and the importance of facing one’s fears and prejudices.
Survivors and their descendants often share their stories, providing firsthand accounts of the resilience and strength demonstrated by those who faced unimaginable hardships. Their narratives serve as a powerful testament to the human spirit’s capacity to endure, rebuild, and strive for a world free from bigotry and persecution.
A few years ago, we had the honour of speaking with Iby Knill, one of the survivors liberated from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in April 1945. Mrs Knill went on to achieve recognition as a prominent speaker and author on the Holocaust, earning the prestigious British Empire Medal as part of the Queen’s Honours list in 2017. Sadly, Mrs Knill died in 2022, 77 years to the day she was freed. The importance of remembering the stories of those like Mrs. Knill is vital to our understanding of the world today.
In the age of advancing technology, virtual events and online platforms are facilitating global participation in Holocaust Memorial Day. Livestreams, virtual exhibitions, and webinars connect people from different corners of the world, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for promoting human rights and preventing genocide.
This year, people are being encouraged to take part in HMD’s ‘Light the Darkness’ campaign. At 8 pm today, people across the UK will light a candle and place it in their window to commemorate all those who lost their lives, and to stand against ongoing prejudice today. People are encouraged to take a photo of their candle and share it on social media with the hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay and #LightTheDarkness.
As we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to tolerance, empathy, and the protection of human dignity. By remembering the past, we honour the victims, ensure their stories are never forgotten, and strive collectively to build a future rooted in respect, understanding, and unity.