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Durham University

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Holocaust Memorial Day

What is Holocaust Memorial Day?

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is a time to remember the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and elsewhere.

The aims of HMD are laid out in the statement of commitment. It was created on 27 January 2000, when representatives from 46 governments around the world met in Stockholm to discuss Holocaust education, remembrance and research.

Why mark it?

Holocaust Memorial Day is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own - it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. We are fortunate here in the UK, as we are not at immediate risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. There is still much to be done to create a safer future, and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.

Each year thousands of activities take place for HMD, bringing people from all backgrounds together to learn lessons from the past in creative, reflective and inspiring ways. From schools to libraries, workplaces to local authorities, HMD activities offer a real opportunity to honour the experiences of people affected by the Holocaust and genocide, and challenge ourselves to work for a safer, better future.

HMD theme for 2021: Be the light in the darkness

This year’s HMD theme encourages each one of us to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, as well as the ways individuals and communities have resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide.
Be the light in the darkness is an affirmation and a call to action for everyone marking HMD.

This theme encourages us to consider various forms of ‘darkness’, such as identity-based persecution, misinformation and denial of justice. At the same time, it reminds us of the different ways of ‘being the light’, for example, resistance, acts of solidarity, rescue and illuminating mistruths. To learn more about this year’s HMD theme, please click here.

HMD Events and Initiatives 2021

  • The Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle has produced an HMD Commemoration video which will be available to view from Monday 25 January at 8am. It features contributions from local schools as well as witness testimony by cellist Anita Lasker Wallfisch, recalling her memories of playing in the Auschwitz Orchestra. It also includes a recording of the Kaddish (Jewish Mourner’s Prayer) by Anita’s grandson, Simon. The video will be accessible here.
  • The Durham University Jewish Society will be hosting an online event via Zoom, Holocaust Memorial Day: Speaking Across the Divide, on Tuesday 26 January at 5.00pm. Speakers include: Noemie Lopian (daughter of Holocaust survivors) and Derek Niemann (grandson of an SS Officer). To register for free, please complete this online form.
  • On Tuesday 26 January at 5:30pm, the Holocaust Educational Trust have organised a broadcast of a survivor's testimony exclusively for university staff and students across the country. The link to sign up can be found here.
  • On Wednesday 27 January,the Durham County Council will be hosting an online event featuring Smajo Beso, a Bosnian refugee who will be sharing his story of struggle and survival during the Bosnian war. Another online talk will feature military researcher, Steve Shannon, who will explore the experiences of a County Durham artillery regiment and its involvement at the infamous concentration camp. Further information about these events can be found here.
  • The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust will be hosting the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day – an online event to be held on Wednesday 27 January at 7.00pm. To register, please complete this online form.
  • On Wednesday 27 January, the UCU Northern Region will be releasing a podcast of an interview with Marek Szablewski. In the interview he will be talking about the research that he has done and the stories of his family living in Warsaw before and during the war. It will be available from any podcast app by searching “UCU Northern Region” and clicking on the episode released this Wednesday. Alternatively, you can access the podcast here on the day.
  • The online panel event Standing Against Genocides will be held on Thursday 28 January, 6pm-7.30pm (via Zoom). It will feature Ruth Barnett MBE (a Holocaust survivor), Amil Khan (the Director of Remembering Srebrenica) and Rahima Mahmut (a prominent Uyghur activist and singer). This is an amazing opportunity to hear from these inspiring speakers, with a Q&A. The event sign up link and further information can be found here.
  • Dr Rui Gomes Coelho (Durham University Department of Archaeology) and Sanja Horvatinčić (Institute of Art History, Zagreb) reflect on Archaeology, modern conflict, and mass violence in a special essay for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021, accessible here.

Please note that other HMD events nationwide are listed on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s website.

Durham Castle lit in purple

Did you know?

In recent years, the University College has been lighting the Durham Castle purple during HMD to mark this important day and to show our solidarity. If you are able to do so, look out for this on the day!
(Photo credit: Zoe Osborn)

Antisemitism today

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has provided a working definition of antisemitism along with a list of examples of modern-day antisemitism, available here.

Reporting incidents of antisemitism

Durham University is committed to tackling antisemitism and other forms of prejudice, intolerance and hatred. The Report + Support tool can be used by staff and students to report incidents of antisemitism, as well as to find out information about support available. Further details for reporting acts of antisemitism and other hate incidents can be found here.

Anyone can also report antisemitic incidents through the Community Security Trust, a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats.

'Understanding antisemitism' online panel discussion

The University Chaplaincy Network and the EDI Unit are organising a virtual panel discussion (via Zoom Webinar) which will focus on the various facets of antisemitism. This will be held on Thursday 18 February at 2pm. All welcome. Registration and further details can be accessed here.