Oxford will mark Holocaust Memorial Day with a virtual service of reflection hosted by the Lord Mayor, councillor Mark Lygo.
Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to remember and learn about the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica and Darfur. It takes place on 27 January every year as this is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where 1.1m people were murdered in less than five years.
The Lord Mayor will be joined by councillor John Howson, chair of Oxfordshire County Council, Anneliese Dodds MP, Monawar Hussain MBE DL, founder of the Oxford Foundation and representative from the Muslim community, Penny Faust, Oxford Jewish Congregation, and city rector Reverend Anthony Buckley.
The service will include readings of Terezin by Michael Flack and Never Shall I Forget by Elie Wiesel, as well as the lighting of a Yahrzeit (“year’s time”) candle to commemorate the lives of the millions murdered during the Holocaust and the genocides that followed.
The service of reflection would normally take place in Oxford Town Hall and is being held online for a second year because of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is One Day, which can stand for many things.
One Day might be a specific date. For example, 19 April 1943, which marked the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis. Or 17 April 1975, when the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh as the prelude to five years of terror that claimed the lives of more than two million Cambodians.
More recently, on 12 July 1995 Bosnian Serb troops descended on Srebrenica and began the systematic murder of around 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in a supposed UN ’safe area’.
One Day could be the day that everything changed, when a school friend who had hugged you the day before averted their eyes and crossed the road to avoid you. It could also be the day that nothing changed, when every hour is devoid of hope and filled with fear, and every day is the same.
For people who survived the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, One Day might be the day of liberation when their suffering ended. One Day when the genocide stopped.
One Day could also be tomorrow. Holocaust Memorial Day is for remembering and learning about the past, for people to come together and resolve to speak out and act against injustice, prejudice and identity-based violence. A day to say “never again” and build a better future.
“On Holocaust Memorial Day we commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. More than that, we seek to understand how these horrors came about and how we can act together to prevent them from ever happening again.
“By taking a collective stand against prejudice, injustice and persecution, we can build a better future where – one day – we all stand clear of the dreadful shadow of genocide.”
Councillor Mark Lygo, Lord Mayor of Oxford