Holocaust Memorial Day: World remembers six million Jewish people murdered by Nazis

Those who survived the Holocaust spoke to remind the world of what took place and must never take place again, reports ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar

Landmarks across the UK have been lit up purple and candles were lit in homes to remember more than six million Jewish people murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 falls on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious death camp where Nazi Germany carried out its Final Solution seeking to murder the Jewish people in Europe.

In memory of the Holocaust victims, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, led a special ceremony in Westminster as candles were in Portcullis House.

Charing Cross station in central London lit up in purple for Holocaust Memorial day. Credit: PA/Ian West

He urged people to call out intolerance and work together to build a “happier future”.

And an online UK ceremony hosted by Holocaust Memorial Day Trust featured contributions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, and other politicians, religious leaders and celebrities.

Commemorations took place amid a rise of anti-Semitism as the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated hatred online.

A candle being lit in the window of 10 Downing Street to mark Holocaust Memorial Day Credit: PA/Ian West

In recent days, two men were attacked in London, while a 12-year-old Jewish boy was attacked in Italy and subjected to anti-Semitics slurs.

The first six months of 2021 were the the worst on record for anti-Semitic crimes in the UK - with 1,308 incidents, according to the Community Security Trust.

This is an increase of 49% from the 875 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the first half of 2020.

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, attends a ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at the Houses of Parliament in London. Credit: PA/Stefan Rousseau

Earlier on Thursday, Conservative MP Robert Jenrick said he was recently sent a death threat letter.

The former Cabinet minister opened a debate on Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 in the House of Commons, warning about the rise in anti-Semitism online in recent years.

He told MPs: “Some of us here have been on the receiving end of anti-Semitism. I know the member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) has on many occasions.

“I recently received a letter telling to me to ‘teach my Jewish Zionist wife to put out fires’, as they intended to burn our house down and cremate our children.”

Survivors of Nazi German concentration camps listen Credit: AP

At the memorial site in Poland, a small number of survivors gathered in an auditorium for a yearly event and were others who joined the event online.

Nazi forces killed 1.1 million people at Auschwitz, most of them Jews.

Inge Auerbacher hugs German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier Credit: Markus Schreiber/AP

In Germany, survivor Inge Auerbacher, 87, told the parliament: “I have lived in New York for 75 years, but I still remember well the terrible time of horror and hatred.

“Unfortunately, this cancer has reawakened and hatred of Jews is commonplace again in many countries in the world, including Germany.

“This sickness must be healed as quickly as possible.”

Barbel Bas, President of the Bundestag, said: “Our country bears a special responsibility — the genocide against the European Jews is a German crime.”

Israel’s parliamentary speaker Mickey Levy broke down in tears in the Bundestag while reciting the Jewish mourner’s prayer from a prayer book that belonged to a German Jewish boy who celebrated his bar mitzvah on the eve of Kristallnacht, an outburst of anti-Jewish violence in 1938.

Mickey Levy during the commemoration in the German Bundestag Credit: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/AP

At the European Parliament, EU legislators listened to 100-year-old survivor Margot Friedlander, who was arrested in 1944 and taken to Theresienstadt, in what is now the Czech Republic.

A year before, her mother and brother had been deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed.

Ms Friedlander and her husband emigrated to the US in 1946 and she returned to Berlin in 2010.

She said: “We must be vigilant and not look the other way as we did then. Hatred, racism and antisemitism must not be the last word in history.”

Charles Michel, the head of the European Council, insisted on the importance of commemorating the Shoah.

He said: “With each passing year, the Shoah inches towards becoming a historical event.

"More and more distant, more and more abstract. Especially in the eyes of the younger generations of Europeans.

“This is why, paradoxically, the more the years go by, the more important the commemoration becomes. The more essential.”

In Italy, the Jewish community and legislators gathered in Rome to lay a wreath where more than 1,000 people were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz on October 16, 1943.

About six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. Some 1.5 million were children.