Holocaust Memorial Day: standing together

UNISON event honours the victims of genocides, as speakers stress the need to remember – and to fight to stop future genocides

Delegates at the Holocaust Memorial Service 2020

Today, 27 January, is Holocaust Memorial Day, and this year it marks exactly 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

UNISON marked the event with an event at UNISON centre, attended by hundreds of staff.

There was a minute’s silence and the lighting of a candle of remembrance to honour the victims of the Nazi regime and those murdered during modern genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Speeches were given by general secretary Dave Prentis, Camden council leader Georgia Gould, local MP Keir Starmer, UNISON president Josie Bird, Hope not Hate deputy director Jemma Levene, and UNISON senior national officer Ruth Levin, whose family history archive was on display at the event.

Mr Prentis said: “Holocaust denialism is a poison. Not carelessness with facts, but a deliberate, insidious evil. To commemorate this day is to strike a blow against these lies and denial.

“We stand against this evil. Wherever it manifests itself. We remember those who were murdered in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. We remember the words of Primo Levi: ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere’.

“That is why our union will always stand against anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination and hate.”

Holocaust denial remains a serious problem in the UK. A survey carried out by Opinion Matters for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found that 5% of adults in the UK (2.6million people) did not believe the Holocaust happened at all, while one in 12 believed the scale had been exaggerated.

Of those polled, 45% said they did not know how many people were killed in the Holocaust, while one in five (19%) believed that fewer than two million Jews were murdered. The actual figure was six million.

Ms Bird connected the traumatic journeys of Jewish refugees to the existing hostility the UK government displays towards people fleeing to safety.

She said: “Today there are 4,000 unaccompanied child refugees living in camps in Greece and France. Their families wait for them in the UK. UNISON is proud to stand with Lord Alf Dubs in his fight to protect them in the face of an uncaring government.”

Find out more at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust