People from Greater Manchester and across the country are invited to join a virtual service to remember the victims of the Holocaust and other genocides, and to hear the vital testimony of those whose lives have been affected by these atrocities.
Faith, civic and political leaders throughout the city-region will take part in an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday 27 January, which this is year taking place online in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The service, broadcast live to residents through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter from 10am, will hear from speakers including Holocaust survivor Tomi Komoly and Rehma Muguyeneza, survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. There will also be musical performances from Chazan Yossi Muller and Choir and Chazan Michael Isdale.
Candles of remembrance will be lit by participants including representatives from the Association of Jewish Refugees, the Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority, the Oldham Interfaith Forum, and the Challenging Hate Forum, amongst others.
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day takes place under the theme of ‘Be the Light in the Darkness’, encouraging people to reflect on the individuals and communities throughout history that have resisted ‘darkness’ and in doing so acted as a light for others. The theme is also a reminder that even in the darkest of times, we can all choose to ‘be the light’ in our own way, from acts of solidarity and support to others, to illuminating mistruths and safely challenging prejudice, discrimination and intolerance.
As well as commemorating the Holocaust, Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to remember those that endured and survived other genocides, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The virtual service will be hosted by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, in collaboration with the ten boroughs. It will be the third annual city-region-wide commemoration in Greater Manchester, and follows last year’s event at Manchester Hall, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “We mark Holocaust Memorial Day this year in a way that’s now becoming familiar to us: separated, but united by our bonds of community, solidarity, and friendship. Once again I want to thank the Association for Jewish Refugees and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for their dedication and support, and Tomi and Rehma for joining us and giving us the privilege of listening to them.
“On this day we remember the Jewish people of Europe who faced such monumental evil, and all victims of the Holocaust and genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, Darfur, and other places. We commemorate them, as we commemorate all who survived these atrocities and whose lights have shone defiantly against the darkness.
“If we allow ourselves to forget what happened in the past, we risk failing to recognise when those ideas try to take root again. We must never allow that, and we must stand together to challenge hatred, discrimination and persecution at every turn.”
Tomi Komoly, a Holocaust survivor originally from Hungary, said: “This is 76 years after the liberation of the concentration camps, and unfortunately people’s memories are already fading.
“There is a fresh awakening of Holocaust denial and the downplaying of its importance as an unprecedented and premeditated industrial scale murder. I want to play my part in reminding people of the significance of the day.”
Michael Newman, Chief Executive of The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), said: “Although we are living in difficult times when planning an event is particularly hard, it is heartening to see the important messages of Holocaust Memorial Day will still be delivered this year.
“This year’s theme, ‘Be the Light in the Darkness’, is exemplified by all the boroughs of Greater Manchester cooperating to meet the challenge so that the Holocaust is remembered and that the community joins together to heed the lessons and combat antisemitism. The AJR is proud to continue to be associated with this event.”
Rehma Muguyeneza, a survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda who works to raise awareness with the Ishami Foundation, said: “By coming together in this way we’re sending a clear message that people need to learn about the past and take action to create a safer future, as we honour all survivors and those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.
“It’s very important to the next generation to hear from the survivors themselves to learn the stories that have taken place around the world, in my case the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
“Events like this gives us opportunity to be reminded of our assembled duty to challenge hatred whenever we see it or face consequences together in silence.”