Theme announced for HMD 2021: Be the light in the darkness

We are pleased to announce the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2021: Be the light in the darkness.

Theme announced for HMD 2021: Be the light in the darkness

Each year, we develop a theme to provide those planning their own HMD events with fresh ideas for interesting and inspiring commemorations. Each theme relates to the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur – as well as present-day situations around the world and closer to home.

Be the light in the darkness is an affirmation and a call to action for everyone marking HMD. This theme asks everyone to consider different kinds of ‘darkness’, for example, identity-based persecution, misinformation, denial of justice; and different ways of ‘being the light’, for example, resistance, acts of solidarity, rescue and illuminating mistruths.

The utterly unprecedented times through which we are living currently are showing the very best of which humanity is capable but also - in some of the abuse and conspiracy theories being spread on social media - the much darker side of our world.

We will continue to do our bit for as long as we can, secure in the knowledge that others will continue to light a candle long after us.

Gena Turgel MBE, survivor of the Holocaust

You can read a thorough exploration of the theme, and a consideration of light and darkness, in our theme vision.

The announcement of the theme for HMD next year comes after we announced last month that more events than ever before took place in the UK for HMD 2020. 17,000 activities and events marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, organised by more than 4,500 organisations including schools, prisons, faith groups, libraries and community groups. You can read about the impact these events had in the HMD 2020 in Review booklet here.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of HMDT, said:

I am delighted to be able to announce the theme for HMD 2021: Be the light in the darkness. This theme has been developed over a number of months, but has taken on a new and more poignant meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. For some people, HMD 2021 may look different to previous years. However, our commitment remains unwavering, and we know that groups in the UK will ensure the legacy of HMD 2020 is continued.

This theme calls out for imaginative responses. I was so inspired by the creativity and energy which all 17,000 HMD activities showed this year, and I can’t wait to see how people’s ideas bring this theme to life.

Writer and comedian David Baddiel supported the launch of the theme. Speaking about the 'darkness of’ Holocaust denial and his recent documentary on the subject, he said:

Most Holocaust deniers now are trolls on the internet. Their main aim is to create pain and offense. They are more dangerous, they disseminate their stuff more widely and young people are more attracted to it.

He also spoke about the impact of meeting with Rachel Levy BEM, a survivor of the Holocaust, during the making of his documentary:

The more you examine and show the absurdity of Holocaust denial, the more someone telling the truth, particularly a survivor, burns stronger.

Explore the theme

Alongside the announcement of the theme for HMD 2021, we have released two new life stories.

Helen Aronson BEM, a survivor of the Holocaust, was one of around only 750 people to be liberated from the Łódź Ghetto. Her mother and brother survived with her, but her father was murdered at Chełmno after volunteering to accompany a group of young children separated from their parents.

Pastor Martin Niemöller is best known for writing First They Came - one of the most famous poems about the Holocaust - but he is a complicated figure, who was initially an antisemitic Nazi supporter.