Viewpoint: By marking Holocaust Memorial Day, councils can challenge hate and unite communities

Following Janet Sillett’s recent reflections on her visit to Auschwitz, Claudia Hyde from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust offers some pointers to councils wanting to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in January.

Local authorities are connected to every individual and group in their area. Through the services they deliver, the events they organise and the places they create, local authorities strengthen their communities. In November 2018, for example, millions of people across the UK attended Armistice Day commemorations organised by their local authorities. Councils are uniquely placed to bridge the divides between communities, and earlier this year, more than 300 councils did just this by marking Holocaust Memorial Day 2018.

On Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), 27 January, we remember the millions of people who have been murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, and challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.

HMD 2019 will focus on the theme Torn from home and will ask people across the UK to reflect on what home means to them, and the effect that the enforced loss of a safe place to call home has on individuals experiencing persecution and genocide. Be it the roof over your head, the town you live in or the people in your local community, ‘home’ means something different to everyone. This year, we’re asking local authorities to join us in marking HMD by posing these questions to their constituents, bringing people together and remembering those who were murdered.

There is no set way to mark HMD, and every year we see local councils across the UK coming up with new, innovative and poignant ways to engage communities in HMD. Here are just a few of the ways councils have marked HMD in recent years:

  • In 2016, libraries in Caerphilly County Borough Council put up book and information displays on the Holocaust. One library also marked HMD by hosting a coffee morning and a cultural Bake Off, where they shared treats such as a Jewish apple cake.
  • In 2018, Newcastle City Council collaborated with the Anne Frank Trust UK, Northern Cultural Projects, and the Representative Council of North Easy Jewry to host an exhibition of Memory Quilts at Newcastle City Library. The Quilts were created by the children and grandchildren of The Boys– a group of 732 orphan child survivors of the Holocaust who were brought to the UK in 1945 to start a new life.
  • In 2017, Hertsmere Borough Council involved more than 200 council staff and members of the public in a moving candlelit procession leading to a civic ceremony. The council brought in the Hertsmere Bosnian community and the Borehamwood Community Choir for an engaging and poignant event.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s activities in 2016 involved young people producing am educational DVD which was showcased at the council’s commemorative event.

To make it easier and more accessible to bring the benefits of marking HMD to local communities, we have launched a range of resources for activity organisers which are all available for free on our website. Visit www.hmd.org.uk/resources or get in touch with us to find out more about the support we can offer. Don’t forget to let us know how you mark HMD by adding your activities to our interactive map to be part of the national picture of HMD.

Claudia Hyde is the Local Government Officer at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. You can contact her on claudia.hyde@hmd.org.uk

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