More than 20,000 watch virtual Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

More than 20,000 watch virtual Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration

Chief Rabbi gives warning about 'dangerous winds of persecution' after the pandemic at event attended by the Prime Minister and featuring a message from Prince Charles

Prince Charles speaking during the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony 2021
Prince Charles speaking during the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony 2021

The Chief Rabbi last night warned of “dangerous winds of persecution” in a “post-Covid era” during a moving virtual ceremony to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

Over 20,000 people tuned into the first ever online event marking 76 years to the day since Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated.

Senior politicians including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, lit candles and read a poem during the ceremony.

Chief Rabbi Emphraim Mirvis said: “Today we recall how the light of humanity, decency and compassion was extinguished when darkness descended upon the earth. The tragedy was deepened by the darkness of indifference.

“But there were glimmers of light- extraordinary people risked their lives to secretly save Jews, while resistance fighter courageously fought back despite unimaginable pressure. There were also glimmers of light during the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

The hour-long ceremony was presented by broadcaster Naga Munchetty, who emphasised the ongoing need to “stand against the hostility, division and prejudice which is still happening today.”

Rabbi Mirvis added: “Darkness can only endure where we fail to shine a light as can tragically be seen around the globe now. In addition, the post Covid era will bring with it upheaval, creating conditions which can precipitate dangerous winds of persecution.”

As well as three Holocaust survivors, attendees also heard from survivors of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

A Tutsi survivor, Alphonsine Kabagabo, told viewers: “Nothing can bring back the members of my family who were killed during the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, but knowing that every year people come together to remember them and to learn from their fate, makes me feel better.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and Imam Qari Asim

Representing the Royal Family, HRH Prince Charles said: “As I speak, the last generation of living witnesses is tragically passing from this world, so the task of bearing witness falls to us.

“This is not a task for one time only; nor is it a task for one generation, or one person. It is for all people, all generations, and all time. This is our time when we can, each in our own way, be the light that ensure the darkness can never return.”

This year’s theme was ‘Be the light in the darkness’, which encouraged reflection on the depths humanity could sink to but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide.

HRH The Prince of Wales added: “We have also seen reckless assaults on the truth and the deeply worrying growth of fake news and of irrational theories, not grounded in reality but rooted in dark places of hatred and fear.

“We have seen reason rejected, objectivity abandoned, history discounted – even the Holocaust denied.”

Viewers also heard moving musical renditions by the Chineke! Chamber ensemble, the first professional orchestra in Europe to be made up of majority black, Asian and ethnically diverse musicians.

Attendees were encouraged to join the commemoration by lighting a candle in their own home.

Elsewhere, national landmarks across Britain, including Wembley Stadium and Cardiff Castle were bathed in purple light at 8pm.

Pre-recorded messages from the likes of Premier League footballers Jordan Henderson and Bruno Fernandes, plus contributions from religious leaders, key workers and celebrity adventurer Bear Grylls all featured in the online service.

Prior to the ceremony, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust displayed photos from their youth photograph exhibition, Light up the darkness. To view these images click here.

Watch highlights of the ceremony here


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: