Today is Holocaust Memorial Day – an internationally recognised day of commemoration.
It is a solemn occasion, remembering the Nazi Holocaust during the Second World War, and raising awareness of the Holocaust around the World.
Holocaust Memorial Day was instituted by the United Nations in 2005. The 27th January was set as the annual date for commemoration across the World due to the fact that Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp in Poland, was liberated on that day in 1945.
From 1942- 1945 it is estimated that over 1.3 million people were sent to the camp and over 1.1 million died. Whilst around 90% of those killed in the camp were Jews, other minority groups like the disabled, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others of a variety of nationalities such as Poles and Soviet Prisoners of War were also killed.
I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau as a newly elected Member of Parliament in the 1990s and was deeply impacted by the experience of seeing the camp myself. The scale of what the Nazis did to innocent men, women and children is absolutely haunting.
The Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) work across the UK to raise awareness of the Holocaust and in doing so, seek to honour the victims, those who survived and those who were so despicably murdered or did not survive the brutality of the camps.
Schools across my constituency have taken part in the visits offered by the HET and I would urge them to continue making the most of the valuable offer available to schools for educational resources and visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau for Sixth Formers. I was also delighted to join students from Plympton Academy and Plymouth SACRE - the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education - as they presented the school with a cherry tree to act as a physical reminder on International Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January.
Each year, Parliament makes time for speeches to be made on the floor of the House of Commons about Holocaust Memorial Day. The HET also provide a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons enabling MPs to pledge their commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and the ongoing education about the Holocaust. I always make a point of finding time in my diary to enable me to do this as I believe it is an important sign of my support for the work of HET and the efforts made to ensure that people, both young and old, are continually made aware of what happened in a remote and destitute part of Poland over 70 years ago.
It was arguably the most tragic human-inspired atrocity in history, and one which will serve to teach us about how we treat each other for generations. It is shameful that the world contains those who deny the Holocaust even happened and absolutely crucial that every generation learns about this so we never repeat it.