What is an HMD activity?
A Holocaust Memorial Day activity is one which brings people together on or around 27 January to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. On HMD we honour the survivors of these regimes of hatred and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today.
HMD activities take many forms and you can be inspired by just some of the ways people have commemorated the day.
Who can organise an HMD activity?
Anyone can organise a meaningful and appropriate HMD activity. People from a variety of communities, all over the UK are involved in organising activities.
What can I do to commemorate HMD?
The scope of what you can do to commemorate HMD is limited only by your imagination. HMD activities have taken place in libraries, schools, cinemas, town halls, shopping centres, places of worship, shops and universities. You can find inspiration in the Get Inspired section of the website which looks at activity ideas and images, films and case studies of local organisers' activities.
Does my activity have to be on 27 January?
The reason that HMD takes place every year on 27 January is because this was the date in 1945 that Soviet troops liberated the largest camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most HMD activities will take place on or around Holocaust Memorial Day. It is important to consider what works for your audience when planning your activity, planning around the majority of your audiences’ working hours and religious commitments is always a good idea. The impact of HMD lasts beyond the 27 January. Find out more about how you can highlight the messages of HMD throughout the year.
Why should I get involved in marking HMD?
There are many reasons why you should get involved in marking HMD.
On HMD we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide is a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not prevented. We’re fortunate here in the UK; we are not at risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, there is still much that we can do to create a safer future and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.
HMD activity organisers bring together the diverse strands of their communities to commemorate HMD in their neighbourhoods. This is a real demonstration of how the lessons of the past can inform our lives today and ensure that we work together to create a safer, better future. Find out how you can get involved in marking HMD.
What is the appropriate tone for my activity?
A HMD activity shares the memory of millions murdered in Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is of course up to you and your colleagues as to how you will commemorate HMD in a way that is both respectful and relevant to your audience. You can find out more and take inspiration from: the Stockholm Declaration and Statement of Commitment, previous activities which have embraced learning lessons from the past to create a safer future and our resources. If you would like any further advice, please get in touch to find out more.
Are there certain things I should include in my HMD activity?
There is no set formula for a HMD activity and your activity may vary greatly from others depending on your location, setting and community. These factors are all important considerations and you can find out more.
All HMD activities have one thing in common - they remember and make reference to the experience of the victims of the Holocaust and also to the victims of Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
HMD is also a day for everyone in the UK to reflect on the lessons of history and to value the importance of celebrating diversity and challenging hatred and persecution in all forms. Each HMD commemoration is organised with the audience of the activity in mind and it is important that activities are inclusive and respectful of all involved. Read more in our statement of purpose and get in touch if you’d like further guidance.
I am a teacher and want to teach a class on the Holocaust. Can you help?
Our resources are specific to Holocaust Memorial Day and our annual theme, however by using these materials, you will gain an understanding of some of the issues around the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Visit the For Educators section of our website for more information.
How can I keep up to date with HMDT?
Is HMD just for Jewish people?
No, HMD is a day for everyone. The Holocaust is a tragically defining episode of the 20th Century and its unprecedented character will always hold universal meaning. The United Nations marks 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration to remember the victims of the Holocaust. The day was created in 2000 by 46 governments.
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in the UK is a time for everyone to remember the attempted annihilation of Europe’s Jewish population, those who suffered under Nazi Persecution and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. HMD is not only a time for commemoration, but a time to honour the survivors of these regimes and an opportunity to use the lessons of their experience to create a safer, better future. People from all parts of the UK and of all ethnicities, religions and interests come together on and around 27 January to mark HMD and to pledge to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.
What is the difference between HMD and Yom HaShoah?
Holocaust Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Yom HaShoah. Yom HaShoah is a date in the Jewish calendar to mourn the loss of those murdered during the Holocaust. It is a day for internal reflection, often held within the synagogue or the wider Jewish community. To find out more visit the Yom HaShoah website.
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is a time for everyone to remember the Holocaust, the victims of Nazi Persecution and of the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. People from all parts of the UK and of all ethnicities, religions and interests come together on and around 27 January to mark HMD and to pledge to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.
What makes genocide different from other wars/atrocities/conflicts?
On 9 December 1948 The convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defined genocide as ‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- killing members of the group
- causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
- deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
- imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
- forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
Why does HMD only recognise the atrocities which occurred during the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur as genocides?
After the Holocaust, on 11 December 1946 the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved that genocide was a crime under international law and you can read about the origin and meaning of the term genocide here. Since that time, the UN has established tribunals and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have pursued perpetrators in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur for crimes of genocide. Genocide cases are currently before the Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia. Dozens of perpetrators have been found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 2004 the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ruled that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide. In 2010 Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted with three counts of genocide by the International Criminal Court, for his role in ordering the Genocide in Darfur. The UK Government recognises the term genocide as applicable to the Holocaust, the 1994 killings in Rwanda (as found by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) and the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, and is monitoring the outcome of the tribunals relating to Cambodia and Darfur.
I’d like to refer to the experience of the victims of other atrocities in my activity – can I do this?
Local activities involve local communities and HMDT encourages you to make your programme relevant to your audience. This may be by the inclusion to the reference of other atrocities. However, please remember to be respectful of the central purpose of HMD in your activity. Please get in touch if you would like further guidance on this point.
For more information see the answers to the following FAQs:
- what is a HMD activity?
- are there certain things I should include in my HMD activity?
- why does HMD only recognise the genocides which occurred during the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur as genocides?
- what makes genocide different from other wars/atrocities/conflicts?
can I use HMD to make comparisons between the Holocaust and the current situation in Israel/ Palestine?
Why aren't genocides which took place before the Holocaust commemorated on HMD?
Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The Holocaust was one of the defining episodes in history and shook the foundations of civilisation. It prompted the first international coordinated response to such crimes and established the new international crime of genocide. Holocaust Memorial Day was set up to commemorate the Holocaust, and to reflect on atrocities that have taken place subsequently that demonstrate humanity’s failure to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. 27 January is internationally recognised and marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.
Can I use HMD to make comparisons between the Holocaust and the current situation in Israel/ Palestine?
It is not appropriate to draw parallels between the Holocaust and the current situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The suffering on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East cannot and must not be considered a 'genocide'. HMD is a time to remember all those who suffered in the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Can my activity encourage people to campaign against genocide taking place today?
Yes. We ask that all Holocaust Memorial Day activities commemorate the Holocaust, all forms of Nazi Persecution, and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The theme for HMD 2016 encouraged us to consider whether we are doing enough to stand up to genocide.
Why, when you are usually flexible about people deciding to include reference to other atrocities in their activities, do you make clear it is not appropriate to use HMD to draw parallels with the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians?
It is extremely offensive to make any comparison between Israel and the Nazis, and this causes particular distress to most Jewish people. HMD should bring communities together, and not cause distress to the community whose tragedy is commemorated.
Why doesn’t HMDT campaign for particular policies to combat genocide?
HMDT’s job is to encourage commemoration of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Commemoration raises awareness of genocide and should encourage us all to think carefully about our individual, national, and international responsibilities to help combat genocide. However, we do not have the policy expertise, nor is it our role to advise on foreign policy. Other, campaigning organisations are best placed to do this.
What is the UK Government doing to stand up to Genocide in Darfur?
Can my HMD activity raise awareness of ISIL’s persecution of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq?
It does appear that ISIL is attempting to carry out genocide against religious minority groups in Iraq. US President Obama has stated that American military intervention is focused on preventing an act of genocide in Iraq. This is a situation we are concerned about and engaged with. As the situation is developing, it is difficult to definitively assess whether genocide is occurring, and too early for international criminal tribunals to make assessments and indictments. It is too early for us to officially commemorate these atrocities on HMD. However, this year’s theme encourages us to be aware of ongoing conflicts in the world which risk descending into genocide, or in which genocide is being, or may already have been, committed; with Syria and Iraq at the forefront of our minds.
Can my HMD activity raise awareness of the Syrian regime’s persecution of civilians in Syria?
Yes, but international criminal courts have not yet had the opportunity to judge whether the Syrian regime has committed the crime of genocide, so it is too early for us to officially commemorate these atrocities on HMD. However, this year’s theme encourages us to be aware of ongoing conflicts in the world which risk descending into genocide, or in which genocide is being, or may already have been, committed; with Syria at the forefront of our minds.
Can my HMD activity make reference to the current refugee crisis?
It is important that commemoration of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides is at the centre of your HMD activity. Many of those affected by the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur have rebuilt their lives in the UK after seeking sanctuary here, and remain grateful to those who didn’t stand by and welcomed them to the UK. HMD is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the people seeking to come to the UK today are human beings, many of whom are fleeing from genocide, conflict and/ or persecution. Whilst it isn’t the job of HMDT to advocate for particular migration policies, it is important to ensure we always respect the humanity of refugees and acknowledge that millions of people around the world have been forced to flee their homes because of genocide, conflict and/ or persecution.
On HMD we ‘learn lessons from the past to create a safer, better future’. What are the lessons from the past?
Different people have taken many different lessons from the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. HMDT doesn’t like to specify what the lessons of the past are, and which lessons people should choose to learn from. Some of the key lessons might include – the need to avoid ever using dehumanising language about other people, the responsibility of everybody in society to stay vigilant against prejudice and discrimination, and the awareness that governments in different times and places are capable of choosing to deliberately murder their citizens simply because of who they are. There are many more lessons that can be taken – and we all have a responsibility to think about what these are and apply them to our lives, communities and society today.
Can my activity ask people not to stand by when hate crime is being committed today?
Yes, HMD should encourage us all to consider whether we are doing enough to combat antisemitism, racism and hate crime. Every one of us can make a difference in our own communities. We can all challenge prejudice and discrimination if we hear or witness it in our schools, workplaces or civic spaces. We can support campaigns run by other organisations that combat hate crime; for example, CST’s work to protect the Jewish community from antisemitic attacks, Stonewall’s campaigns against homophobia, Mencap’s work to combat hate crime against people with learning difficulties, Tell Mama’s work to provide support to victims of anti-Muslim attacks, and One Billion Rising’s campaign against violence against women.
I’d like to invite a survivor to talk at my event – can you help me organise this?
Undoubtedly the most powerful contribution which can be made to a HMD event is through listening to a survivor of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, or subsequent genocides recount their testimony. Listening to a survivor recount their story is an intense experience for an audience who are likely to have a profound reaction to hearing it.
We don’t arrange for survivors to speak at events, but we do provide a list of organisations who can arrange this. We recommend making such a booking early as survivors become very busy speaking to groups around HMD.
I can’t find a speaker for my event, what do I do?
How can I apply for funding for my activity?
What can I do to continue the messages of HMD beyond the day/ programme?
The impact of your HMD activity can last for longer than HMD itself – your activity may lead to other activities, it may inspire different behaviours or attitudes, and it can have a lasting effect on participants.
HMD provides an important opportunity to reflect on the atrocities of history in the context of our lives today, a reminder of the importance of challenging hatred and discrimination.
You can continue the messages of HMD throughout the year. We have put together days and months in the calendar and suggestions on how these could tie in with HMD. Find out how you can work to prevent hatred and discrimination in our society today.
Have you got any images I can put in my Powerpoint presentation?
Yes, using images is a powerful way to share the messages raised by HMD at your activities. We have a selection of photographs which you are allowed to use these as you wish so long as you do not edit or crop the images and you must supply copyright information as requested. Please pay close attention to the captions for each photograph.