Since 2007 the University of Essex has marked Holocaust Memorial Day with a series of events taking place around the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp by Soviet troops.
Holocaust Memorial Week provides a focus for remembering the millions of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust and other victims of the Nazi persecution. We also remember victims of genocides perpetrated against targeted groups in countries such as Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Srebrenica), Sudan (Darfur) and Myanmar. It is also an opportunity for us to look at human rights issues, explore discrimination that still exists today, and lessons still to be learned by the Holocaust.
Each year during Holocaust Memorial Week, a number of events take place, each reflecting a different theme. These events include talks, lectures, exhibitions, film screenings and more.
The first week with a specific theme was in 2009, when 'STAND UP TO HATRED' was chosen by the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. This theme was chosen to highlight the extreme consequences of hatred, and help us to look at our behaviour toward others and explore how each of us can help make our communities stronger and safer.
Over the years, other themes have included; disability and euthanasia, issues including prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and stigmatization, the experiences of the Roma and Sinti, the persecution of gay men under the Nazi regime, and the struggle for human rights and dignity of LGBT people since 1945.
Reverend Sara Batts-Neale, University Chaplain, recalls how she learned, aged seven, of the genocide taking place in Cambodia. She reflects on this experience and her own visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in Phnom Penh, in 2015.
"The awareness that work for greater tolerance, for human dignity and human rights starts on our doorsteps, in our schools and in our local communities."
Holocaust Memorial Week 2020 marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, the University community joined together to remember those killed in the Holocaust and other genocides at the Reading of Names in Square 4 from 1pm-2pm. Throughout Holocaust Memorial Day, our staff and students were able to join artist Maggie Campbell to make a willow lantern for the Procession of Light which was held later in the afternoon. The procession was led across campus by musicians and finished outside the Lakeside Theatre where staff, students and members of the local community gathered for a moment of reflection, followed by refreshments in the Lakeside Theatre Café. In the evening, a screening of ‘Prosecuting Evil’ was held in the Lakeside Theatre followed by a discussion, led by Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre.
As part of the Holocaust Memorial Week programme, Dr Roman Nieczyporowski from the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts visited the University and presented his new talk ‘Art and the Memory of the Holocaust’ and Don Kipper gave a special Holocaust Memorial Week performance in the Lakeside Theatre.
The Dora Love prize, awarded each year for the best Holocaust awareness project by an individual pupil or group of pupils at a school in Essex or Suffolk, was presented during Holocaust Memorial Week. The 8th Dora Love Prize was won by the Colchester County High School for Girls with runners-up prizes awarded to Northgate High School in Ipswich and SET Saxmundham.
As part of the week’s programme, Anthony Clavane from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies led a discussion ‘Bigger than ourselves: How football can help to challenge racism’ and Professor Lars Waldorf from the School of Law gave a talk on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.
Later on in the week, students from the Human Rights Society lead a roundtable discussion: ‘Burning of Books: Intolerance of Progress and of Diversity of Opinion’ which started with an opening statement from Professor Rainer Schulze, Emeritus Professor from the Department of History and later that evening, the University hosted a panel discussion on ‘The State of Antisemitism Today’.
Holocaust Memorial Week 2020 finished with University of Essex staff and students joining members of the local community for a Friday Evening Service.