Every year on 27 January, the victims and the families of the Holocaust are remembered on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Six million Jewish people were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War, along with millions from other persecuted groups. Holocaust Memorial Day also remembers people killed in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
In 2024, the theme of the day is “Fragility of Freedom”.
A statement on the official Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) website reads: “Today many people in Western democracies take freedoms for granted – this HMD, we can reflect on how these freedoms need to be valued, and on how many people around the world face restrictions to their freedoms to live, worship, work and love freely.”
When is Holocaust Memorial Day?
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year.
The date was chosen as on 27 January in 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Union.
At least 1.1 million people are known to have been killed at Auschwitz, in occupied Poland. It was the largest Nazi death camp, and consisted of more than 40 concentration and extermination camps.
Today there is a museum and memorial at the site to remember “the martyrdom of the Polish nation and other nations in Oswiecim” – the town in which the camp was situated.
27 January is also the date chosen for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and some other national Holocaust Memorial Days.
How is the Holocaust being remembered in the UK?
Events are taking place for Holocaust Memorial Day around the UK in the days leading up to and following 27 January.
Traditionally, the day culminates with a lighting of candles at 8pm known as a “Light the Darkness” event.
Participants are invited to put their candles in their windows to remember those killed.
Photos uploaded to social media can use the hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay and #LightTheDarkness.
A major online ceremony will take place at 7.30pm on Saturday 27 January, which will include talks and remembrance. This will be followed by the Light the Darkness event at 8pm. You can register for this free event here.
Various boroughs are holding events on different dates in the weeks surrounding the main day.
For example, the University of Greenwich is holding an exhibition until 7 February titled “International Holocaust Memorial Day – This is Our Story” at the Heritage Gallery that explores personal stories of life, persecution, and resilience.
On Sunday 28 January, Muswell Hill Synagogue is hosting a public talk from Safet’s Vukalic about their experience of the Bosnian genocide and Marcel Ladenheim’s experience of being a Holocaust survivor and hidden child during the Second World War. Find out more here.
In Barnet, a multi-faith Holocaust Memorial Commemoration will take place on Sunday 28 January at 2pm at Middlesex University, with music and speakers. Find out more here.
And on Monday 24 January, London’s City Hall in conjunction with the Holocaust Educational Trust and The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust held an online ceremony to commemorate victims of the Holocaust and provide a time for reflection for those affected by more recent genocides.
Join Amgueddfa Cymru in collaboration with Holocaust Memorial Day Trust at Cardiff’s National Museum for an impactful afternoon commemorating the lives tragically taken during the Holocaust, Nazi persecution of other groups, and in more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur on Saturday 27 January, from 3-5.30pm. Find out more here.
The Manchester Jewish Museum is holding an open day on Sunday 28 January. Visitors can explore the Creative Activists’ new temporary exhibition, which explores stories of displacement, take part in creative activities, including zine-making, and contribute to art installations.
At Newcastle City Library, the Making History Together Travelling exhibition launched by The Together Plan in 2022 commemorates and promotes learning about the Holocaust in the German-occupied Soviet Union with a focus on Belarus. It has a series of events running from 29 January to 2 February.
On Saturday 27 January, a short commemorative event with music, silence, and candle lighting will take place. Gather at CSREC in the Howgate Centre for 2pm.
For more information about events in your area, go to the “find an activity” page on the Holocaust Memorial Day website.
What is a holocaust?
The word “holocaust” is defined as “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”.
The Holocaust was the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others from minority groups and faiths, such as LGBTQ+ people, by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during the Second World War.
For the antisemitic Nazis who met at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on January 20, 1942, this mass murder was the “final solution” to the so-called Jewish question.
The deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, or race was given a name, “genocide,” by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-born jurist who served as an adviser to the US department of war during the Second World War.
In 1948, the Genocide Convention was drawn up by the United Nations to stop events such as the Holocaust from happening again.