The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s theme for 2020 has been announced as ‘Stand Together’, urging people to fight hatred and remember the victims of racism at a time when “identity-based hostility is increasing”.
Shoah educators revealed plans for next year’s day of remembrance on Tuesday, as a new national commemorative project was launched with the help sculptor and Shoah survivor Maurice Blik.
The 2020 theme was launched at a ceremony in London attended by survivors of the Holocaust Susan Pollack, Lily Ebert, Dr Martin Stern and sculptor Maurice Blik, as well as and Safet Vukalic, a survivor of the Genocide in Bosnia, actress Penelope Wilton.
The theme explores how genocidal regimes deliberately fracture societies by marginalising communities, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals uniting together and speaking out against oppression.
Reflecting on the announcement of 2020’s HMD theme of ‘Stand Together’, Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the HMDT UK said: “During the Holocaust and genocide, communities were deliberately divided and individuals persecuted because of their identity.
“Despite the dangers of doing so, some people chose to stand together with those targeted, challenging the divisive actions of genocidal regimes.”
At a time when we know identity-based hostility is increasing, it is important that we stand together and show solidarity with others facing prejudice. Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity for us all to learn from genocide, for a better future.”
Introducing the theme, chair of HMD Laura Marks, said that “one of the reasons that we do HMD is partly to honour the past and to remember, and also think very much about what can we do today to stop this sort of thing happening again.”
Never again has become a hollow saying. It’s not about never again, it’s about what do we do to make sure it’s about never again.”
Penelope Wilton said: “I was so pleased to take part in the UK Ceremony earlier this year and I urge everyone to take part in activities for Holocaust Memorial Day 2020. Having heard from survivors of the Holocaust and genocide, I know how important it is that we all stand together against hatred and prejudice today.”
Wilton who spoke at HMD’s ceremony last year, spoke about having acted in a play called ‘Taken at Midnight’ about lawyer Hans Litten, who cross-examined Hitler in 1932, and was subsequently killed in Dachau in 1938.
She said: “being the age I am I am very aware that Taken at Midnight was about a man who took Hitler… brought him into court and made him account for the brutality of his followers. When the Nazis took over he was taken to Dachau and he was murdered. He wasn’t a Jew, he was a lawyer.”
She said her father was a prisoner of war and “I’ve become more aware of what’s been going on recently, with the rise in populism and trying to change people’s views through fear, and the rise of the far-right”.
“Genocide comes about through ignorance and fear and worry, and particularly Europe at the moment and America, there are signs it is starting again. We have to be very aware of that and fight it with education.”
“While we still have survivors here, they are giving of their time, and I will do anything I can to help pass their stories on.”
Lily Ebert, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau but lost many family members, reflected on her harrowing experiences, saying that “we had to walk before a man. This man was standing there with a stick in his hand and with one movement he sent people right or left. To live or to die. That was the last time I saw my family.”
“I promised myself in the camp when I was there, that if a miracle happens and I survive, I will tell people what happened there. Not one day goes by when I don’t think about it. I will carry on what I have started – to help teach the world to be tolerant to each other.”
The ’75 Memorial Flames’ project will see artworks created across by communities country, marking 75 years since the end of the Holocaust, with the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The project was launched with a sculpture created by Maurice called ‘The Human Flame’, which represents the human spirit. He was liberated from Bergen-Belsen as a child – and recently featured in a BBC documentary – ‘The Last Survivors‘, reflecting on the future of Shoah education, as increasing numbers pass on.
While describing the process for making the sculpture, he said it took him “40 years” to make, and that the physical act of putting it together may take minutes, but the idea itself is the product of years of work.
Over the coming months, 75 of the Memorial Flames from will be selected to form a unique national exhibition at the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony in January 2020 – with communities being urged to sign up and take part.
HMD takes place annually on 27 January, and had 10,000 activities taking place across the UK in 2019.
The 2020 commemoration will mark the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia, and the charity educates about the Nazi Holocaust, and more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Speaking at the event, Safet Vukalic, 42, said the last few years have felt “more and more frightening” as Britain becomes increasingly polarised. As a Muslim teenager he was forced to flee Prijedor in Bosnia, where non-Serbs were forced to wear white armbands and put a white flag on their homes.
He issued a warning, saying: “It’s only the last few years that I have genuinely started thinking that it certainly doesn’t feel as safe as before, and I am afraid of things that have happened in other countries, and sometimes things happen here.”
He said: “I’m grateful that I survived but I also try to do what I can, try and support the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, because we don’t want these things repeating, people do not want to go through this, people do not want to be the victims of genocides.
“Nobody deserves to live like that. It’s something we need to continue to fight for.”
Olivia Marks-Woldman added it was important to be historically aware of how the Nazis deliberately made Jewish people “other” and to show solidarity.
She said: “The more we see swastikas and the more we hear it (antisemitism) the more normalised it becomes, so people’s tolerance to it increases.
“We’ve seen hostility-based hatred – Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred – is on the increase, anti-gay prejudice hasn’t disappeared, and when these things become normalised and tolerated that’s a very frightening place to be.”