With rising intolerance, Holocaust Memorial Day is more vital than ever

Olivia listens to Holocaust survivor Helen Aronson at an HMD reception
Olivia listens to Holocaust survivor Helen Aronson at an HMD reception

It doesn’t take long to find these views on social media:

“The Holocaust didn’t happen, but it should have.”

“The Holocaust is a lie, but what a great idea. Removing 6 million Jews sounds like a wonderful plan.”

Shockingly, there are many people who hold these views. Perhaps even more worryingly, there are many people who simply do not know enough about what happened in the Holocaust, and are susceptible to views such as these, which are spread deliberately and become normalised online.

The final stage of genocide is denial and today, nearly 75 years after the Holocaust, we are seeing Holocaust myths and distortions proliferating online.

And not only online. Make no mistake, this is not an inevitable by-product of social media. Social media platforms may make these views reach further and faster than traditional outlets, but Holocaust abuse is taking place offline too. It is in the swastikas daubed on walls and posters, in the hostility shown in person to individuals who are known to be Jewish or deemed to be ‘Jew-lovers’.

CST figures show that antisemitic incidents are at near-record levels in the UK. We also know that Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred, is increasing. And that hostility towards other minorities – disabled people, gay people, refugees – is also prevalent in many areas.

Yet at the same time, at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust we are seeing an extraordinary increase in the number of local Holocaust Memorial Day activities. We anticipate in the region of 11,000 events this year, with some schools and local authorities running whole series of events over many days.

These events are taking place in every corner of the UK – the map on our website shows that Westray Parish Kirk Youth Group is organising an HMD film night and reflection in Orkney. Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke is travelling to Enniskellin in Northern Ireland to share her testimony at an event in Fermanagh County Museum. There will be a commemorative ceremony at the peace garden in Plymouth, bringing local community groups together.

These activities all make a difference – adding to participants’ knowledge, making them feel more sympathetic to people they may perceive to be different, and prompting them to take further action. Our research showed that 93% of people who attend a Holocaust Memorial Day event, are inspired to do more as a result.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust supported this work:

The young student with severe autism who was encouraged, for the first time, to talk in front of large numbers of his fellow students at a school assembly. As a result of what he had learned at his Holocaust Memorial Day event, he spoke about the importance of speaking up and challenging prejudice.

The young offenders who worked together as a team to research, learn and create an exhibition about Jewish and Roma individuals who had been persecuted by the Nazis. This was an enormous achievement for the young people involved – many of whom struggle to interact with others and have more complex educational needs.

Our world today is fractured, with polarised opinions that are often expressed angrily, with no room for nuance or reflection.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an annual opportunity to reflect on the past, its implications and its contemporary resonances. We need that yearly reminder of where hostility based on a person’s identity can ultimately lead.

We can all learn more about genocide – for a better future.




About the Author
Olivia is the Chief executive, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
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