Countdown presenter Rachel Riley and former chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks were among those to back an online Holocaust remembrance project led by March of the Living.
They joined the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin in leaving their own personal message on a website launched today, which can be accessed on https://nevermeansnever.motl.org/.
Organisers were forced to postpone the annual 1.9 mile-trek from Auschwitz to Birkenau over safety concerns during the pandemic. The event draws thousands of participants from around the world each year, including survivors, students and educators.
The project, inspired by the theme “NeverMeansNever”, allows online users to leave a message on the portal in the form of a “virtual plaque”.
President Rivlin, who was the first to take part, urged “the nations of the world” to stand together against antisemitism, racism and extremism.
“Together, for the protection of democratic values and human dignity. This is the mission of our time. This is our challenge. If we can unite around these things, then we can rise to the challenge,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Riley pledged to honour survivors “by ensuring that their stories will continue to be told, even when they are no longer able to tell them.”
She added: “I promise to advocate Holocaust education, to inoculate as many people as possible from the virus that is antisemitism.”
In his message, Rabbi Sacks wrote: “There are cultures that forget the past. There are cultures that are held captive by the past. Jews do neither.
“We carry the past with us as we will carry the memory of the Shoah with us for as long as the Jewish people exist. Those fragments of memory help make us who we are. Jews ‘choose life’.”
Other participants included the former head of the Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky and its current chairman Isaac Herzog.
“This year, for the first time in 32 years, we are not able to march in Auschwitz-Birkenau, but that will not stop us,” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, world chair of March of the Living, before vowing to continue to educate the next generation.
The organisation’s president Phyllis Greenberg Heideman said the virtual campaign was “an important opportunity for people across the world not only to remember the Holocaust but to commit to building a better future for all members of the human family.”