Holocaust Memorial Day 2021

Holocaust Memorial Day 2021

We remember those who were murdered for who they were.

We stand against prejudice and hatred that is still prevalent today.


Holocaust Memorial Day, the 27th of January 2021, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. The Holocaust nearly destroyed civilisation at the time, tore apart families and exposed the worst side of humanity. Whilst we may feel that we as a society have progressed and become more inclusive, actions and words of hatred and discrimination are still seen daily throughout the UK. HMD is often associated with our Jewish communities, although many mass genocides that occur are not limited to the Jewish religion, with members of the LGBTQ+ communities, those of different ethnicities, and those who are simply “different” being victim to such atrocities. Whilst I cannot speak for those who were victims of the slaughters that occurred, nor those who are affected by these everyday actions of discrimination, I can offer a platform to share the voices and give insight into this important occasion.


The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust emphasises that HMD is for everyone. This day gives the opportunity for people to come together to learn about the past, share thoughts and experiences and take action to create a safer future for all. The Trust has a short film showcasing the impact of HMD, which really gives insight into how important and impressive this day is:


It’s important we don’t forget York’s place in the history of Holocausts and anti-Semitism, with an estimated 150 Jews living in York being forced to take refuge in Clifford’s Tower in 1190. Many committed suicide to avoid being captured, killing their wives and children before setting fire to the wooden keep, and ending their own lives. This scenario was seen in many European cities at the time, and more information can be found here.


The University of York are holding an online event to mark this day, open to both their staff and students, and the general public. The have speaker Ariana Neumann attending, who will reflect on the memoir “When Time Stopped”. The event is hosted by the Lord Mayor of York and the Vice-Chancellor of York University, featuring talks from the Archbishop of York and a student at the university. The event is FREE, although you need to book your ticket in advance. Find more information about it here.


For further information, check out the HMD website where there are articles on the Holocaust in WW2, and others in Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and many other countries. Additionally, there are real life experiences shared on here which are incredibly insightful to read, such as this one from Pierre Seel, imprisoned age 17 by the Nazis for being gay.


During this time, we stand in solidarity with everyone to respect what others have experienced and commemorate such important historical days.


Our Chaplain, Revd Jane Speck, writes:

For many of us the Holocaust and other genocides are atrocities that happened somewhere else and a long time ago.  We can acknowledge that they were appalling but feel a degree of separation from them.  It didn’t happen here – it wouldn’t happen here.  Even York’s own history, with the hounding and death of its Jewish community in the 12th century, was nine hundred years ago.


However.  We are human, we are flawed, and every one of us carries within us the potential to stand by while the next genocide happens around us.  That’s a hard thing to say!  Believing, as I do, in all the wonderful kindness and love that resides in every human being, I struggle to acknowledge that we all have a dark side too – but we do.  It might be a strong survival instinct; a desire to protect our own.  It might be the fear of ‘getting involved’, or saying the wrong thing, or getting into trouble.  All these things can mean that when a group begins to get persecuted, we keep quiet. Societies divide more quickly than we might imagine, and the speed at which neighbours, even family members, will turn on one another is frightening.  We saw this in Rwanda, in Bosnia.  We see it now in America, as the county divides between pro- and anti-Trump factions, and we experienced it here with Brexit – some of you will have witnessed arguments more ferocious than you could have imagined in your own families, over whether the UK should leave the EU or not.  The deed is done now, but many of the hurt feelings remain.  We are not, as a country or a society, immune to the divisions and disagreements that can, with the wind in the wrong direction, be fanned into violence and rage. 


So Holocaust Memorial Day is a reminder to us all, to be the light in the darkness.  To be the voice that speaks out; the heart that welcomes.  Preventing genocide starts with every one of us, as we resolve to be kind, to listen, and to take the risk of standing up for those who are persecuted.  Let’s never allow such things to happen again.  Let’s be courageous and kind and leave the world a better place than we found it.”




By Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist.


Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist.


Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist.


Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew.


Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.

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