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Britain Holds First Holocaust Day

Monday, August 27, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

In a welcome development, the United Kingdom will hold its first-ever Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday, the 56th anniversary of the Allied liberation of Auschwitz, but the event is not without controversy.

The British government under Prime Minister Tony Blair approved a Holocaust Day to commemorate the six million victims of the Nazi genocide after Labour MP Andrew Dismore visited the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in the summer of 1999. Adopted at the nadir of the ethnic conflict in Kosovo, Blair stated: "I am determined to ensure the horrendous crimes against humanity during the Holocaust are never forgotten. The ethnic cleansing and killing that has taken place in Europe in recent weeks are a stark example of the need for vigilance."

British Ambassador to Israel, Francis Cornish, said that a national day was established since the Holocaust was actually a "universal catastrophe." He echoed Blair's hopes that the remembrance will "ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism, and victimization during the Holocaust are not forgotten or repeated anywhere."

In addition to an official memorial service in London, there will be regional events across the country marking not only the Holocaust, but also smaller genocides that have taken place since then. Local authorities, schools and churches have been encouraged to mark the day in some way. In some areas, Christians are holding joint services with Jewish members of their communities.

The official London service will be attended by the Prince of Wales, but the Queen declined an invitation to the ceremony as she did not wish to interrupt her stay at Sandringham, preferring to attend a shooting party hosted by her husband, Prince Philip.

The idea to hold the memorial has been met with some resistance, even from within the Jewish community. In response to an initial consultation paper issued by the Home Office in October 1999, a diverse range of individuals and pressure groups felt that they too should be included in the day's events. The event will test Britain's relations with Turkey in particular, after a last-minute decision to include victims of the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians, a dark chapter that Turkey denies was genocide.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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