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Holocaust Memorial Day 2024 | History of Holocaust Memorial Day
Holocaust Memorial Day 2024 is based on the theme 'Fragility of Freedom', which encourages people to never take their freedom for granted.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a chance to look back at some of the darkest moments in history, remember the people who lost their lives and look forward to ways to avoid and prevent such brutality in the future. Let’s explore the history of Holocaust Memorial Day in more depth.
When is Holocaust Memorial Day?
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January every year. While it began as an occasion to remember and learn about the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, it has also come to represent much more. Now, it is the day to remember those not only murdered in the Holocaust but also genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Darfur.
Holocaust Memorial Day Significance
The international Holocaust Memorial Day was selected with a very specific purpose. 27th January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest and most infamous of all Nazi concentration camps. The Holocaust transformed the fabric of civilisation and destroyed much of society as we know it. It allowed prejudices and hatred to rule and take over to devastating effect. Holocaust Memorial Day is vitally important as an opportunity to remember those lost but also to learn more about the past and take action to make the future safer, more tolerant and more peaceful.
Holocaust Memorial Day was first held in January 2001 and has been held every year since. This is the case in many countries around the world, though some places also commemorate additional dates. Since 2005, the United Nations has also been formally commemorating the Holocaust on this date.
What is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2024?
Each Holocaust Memorial Day is themed to give us something to think about and to allow organisers to arrange their events with a common goal or focus. In 2024, 'Fragility of Freedom' is the theme that looks at the idea that freedom cannot be taken for granted and the extent to which people are restricted during genocides.
This year, people of all faiths are asked to contemplate what freedom means to them and how they would feel if that freedom was taken away. It's also an opportunity to honour and remember the individuals from past genocides who risked their own freedom to help others by standing up to the regime.
Anne Frank, while reflecting on the time that the Germans first arrived in the Netherlands, wrote in her diary, 'That is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees.'
Five Key Facts about the Holocaust and its Legacy
The Holocaust has shaped the world we live in. The way many things are approached has had to change following the shockwaves the Nazis' actions sent across the world. Here are five key facts about the Holocaust and its legacy:
1. The Holocaust was State-Sponsored Mass Murder
The Holocaust saw millions of people murdered at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi state. The word is taken from the Greek word “holokaustom” which refers to sacrifice by fire. Most of the deaths took place between 1941-1945 but they began before this when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.
2. Survivors' Stories are still told today
The Survivors of the Holocaust made it through in many ways. Some managed to survive in concentration camps whilst others lived in ghettos, went into hiding, fled to other countries including the Soviet Union or tried to pass as non-Jews. While we’re reaching an age where most Holocaust survivors are passed, you will still find some touring schools and other institutions telling their stories. There are also thousands of memoirs and stories to read and learn from.
3. Victims of the Holocaust were not just Jewish
We often hear of the huge loss of life of Jewish people during the Holocaust and there were over 6 million Jews murdered. However, the Nazi regime also murdered millions in other minority groups including disabled people, Roma and Sinti people, Polish citizens, Soviet prisoners of war and gay people.
4. The Nazis did not invent Concentration Camps
The concept of concentration or death camps is often considered a Nazi creation, but Hitler took his ideas from other, earlier designs. The idea of a camp holding ‘enemy’ civilians had been seen in many other places including the USA and Cuba. However, the Nazis' development of the gas chambers transformed these camps from prisons into death centres.
5. The Holocaust paved the way for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
It is wrong to say anything good came from the Holocaust but its aftermath meant changes were vital to protect people in the future. Many countries accepted they could not leave it up to individual countries to protect their people’s rights. This led to the beginnings of the modern human rights movement and the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
If you would like to learn more about Holocaust Memorial Day and the people who were affected, visit Sky HISTORY's Holocaust Memorial Day hub.