Parliament: Ten-Minute Bill: Remembrance day urged for the Holocaust

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN SHOULD have a national day of remembrance for the Holocaust to remind people of its unique place in history, the House of Commons was told yesterday.

Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, introduced a 10-minute rule motion calling for a Bill to make such a day an annual event, in the same way the two world wars are marked on Remembrance Sunday.

The backbench legislation, which was unopposed, is unlikely to succeed in itself but the Government has already given broad support for the idea and begun a consultation period. Mr Dismore said there should be no delay in doing this. "Each day the link with the Holocaust, through survivors, is weakened as they pass away and their memories fade," he said. "It is vital to ensure the remembrance of the Holocaust as a uniquely important tragedy is perpetuated."

The idea was born out of a visit that he paid to the site of the Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp earlier this year. "As I went round the various blocks I felt a sense of powerlessness and dehumanisation which still pervades the site. I could only wonder at the absolute terror the Nazis' victims must have felt," he said.

"The cold-blooded methodical processing of fellow human beings was brought home to me not just by the tragic piles of personal belongings but by the detail - such as the systematic removal of the laces from the mountains of victims' shoes."

Mr Dismore described the Holocaust as a defining episode of the century, a crisis for European civilisation and a universal catastrophe for humanity. He said that recent persecutions in Rwanda and the Balkans had underlined tragically the lessons of the Holocaust.

He suggested that the event should take place on the nearest Monday to 27 January, the date on which Auschwitz was liberated. This would allow schools to hold their own remembrance events and undertake projects leading up to the date, emphasising the Holocaust's importance as more than a mere academic subject.

There might also be a national service or ceremony, perhaps with a speech from the Prime Minister.

"The Holocaust was a defining episode in the history of the century, and it remains an unparalleled genocide in its scale," Mr Dismore said. "We should remember it for the victims, but even more importantly draw lessons from it for the future to make sure that it remains a unique episode."

Leading article, Review, page 3