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Thousands of events worldwide mark Holocaust Memorial Day

by Peter Lazenby and Ben Chacko

THOUSANDS of events are taking place in Britain and worldwide to mark Holocaust Memorial Day today.

Events will also mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation, by the Soviet Union’s Red Army, of Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland.

The commemorations take place as acts of genocide continue today. In some Eastern European countries, persecution, discrimination and violence is increasing against Roma and Sinti people from former nomadic communities.

Holocaust Memorial Day marks the slaughter of six million Jews and millions of travelling people, communists, LGBT+ people, pacifists, disabled people and others by nazi Germany during the second world war.

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said: “On this day we remember the full horrors of genocidal fascism.”

But he warned against a drive to rewrite the historical record to concoct a false equivalence between the creators of Auschwitz and its liberators.

Labour MEPs last year were among those who voted for a successful motion to the European Parliament “on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe,” which denounced communism alongside nazism.

Mr Griffiths said: “We condemn the falsification of history by a European Parliament that equates communism with fascism and ignores the role of the Soviet Red Army in liberating the prisoners in the nazi extermination camps of central and eastern Europe.”

Today also commemorates other acts of genocide such as in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, Rwanda in 1994 and Bosnia in 1995. It also commemorates that of Darfur in Sudan — which began in 2003 and continues to this day — with an estimated 200,000-400,000 people killed and millions displaced.

Holocaust Memorial Day was first held in 2001. Last year, more than 10,000 events took place in Britain alone.

This year’s theme is “Stand Together.” It explores how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups and how such tactics can be challenged.

Commemorations began in some centres yesterday including at Leeds Town Hall, where a remembrance included music and an address by UK National Holocaust Centre co-founder Dr James Smith. There were readings by representatives of persecuted groups including Holocaust survivors, people with additional needs, the LGBT+ community and Remembering Srebrenica.

The event closed with a traditional Hebrew memorial prayer.

Leeds Town Hall is also hosting the photographic exhibition We Were There, about children and young people who survived nazi persecution across Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and settled in Leeds. It runs until February 29.

Labour peer Lord Alfred Dubs escaped the Holocaust in 1939 as a child, when the Kindertransport rescued thousands of Jewish children before the Holocaust began.

Today Lord Dubs is fighting for the rights of unaccompanied child refugees to come to Britain.

Conservative MPs voted down proposed measures last week to welcome unaccompanied child refugees, despite support in the House of Lords and appeals from children’s charities.

Lord Dubs said: “My journey here as an unaccompanied refugee child aged six took two days on a train from Prague and pales in comparison to the journeys being undertaken by the child refugees of today.

“Some of the children in the camps or on the streets have family here in the UK, perhaps the only surviving relatives they have. Their right to be reunited with that family is enshrined in law, but that law will be scrapped when we leave the EU if the government gets its way.”

Christian children during the Holocaust sewed yellow stars onto their uniforms and walked hand in hand with their Jewish schoolmates through the streets in an act of defiance against the nazis, it has been revealed.

Ninon Leader, a former pupil at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest, Hungary, said that the girls were encouraged to see themselves as equals by their “inspirational” matron, Jane Haining — who was later arrested and died at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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