Plymouth comes together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

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Dozens of people have gathered in Plymouth to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and remember the millions of Jewish people who were murdered in the Second World War.

It was on this day in 1945 that Auschwitz was liberated. And 77 years on, more than 100 people came together at the Peace Garden on the Hoe in Plymouth to remember those persecuted in the Holocaust and in genocides that followed across the world.

Judith Beckman, honorary officer at Plymouth Synagogue, said: "We have to try and remember in the hope that it won't happen again because hatred is just so pointless."

What is Holocaust Memorial Day?

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January, the day that the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated. Credit: PA

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) takes place on January 27 each year, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

It is held to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945, alongside other groups persecuted by the Nazis including Roma, disabled people and gay people.

It also commemorates the millions murdered in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said, "The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation, and genocide must still be resisted every day. Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all.

"HMD is for everyone. Each year across the UK, thousands of people come together to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. We know they learn more, empathise more and do more.

"Together we bear witness for those who endured genocide, and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition."

An oak tree was also planted on the Hoe today, as part of a national commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Association of Jewish Refugees. This was set up in July 1941 to support the estimated 70,000 Jewish refugees who fled to Britain to escape Nazi oppression before World War II.

93-year-old Frank Land who fled the Nazis with his family in 1939. Credit: ITV West Country

One of those refugees was Frank Land, 93, who fled to Britain with his parents in 1939. He grew up to become the first professor of information systems in the UK. He helped plant the tree, which is one of 80 across the country, as part of the organisation's '80 Trees for 80 years' campaign.

The plaque reads: "In loving memory of Louis and Sofia Landsberger (Frank's parents) who came from Germany in 1939 and whose family settled in Devon, and with thanks to fellow Holocaust survivor Solly Irving who spent 16 years educating Plymouth children about the Holocaust and where discrimination leads".

Frank said, "I hope - but don't expect - that by the time this tree is grown we will live in harmony and we will no longer abuse power. But that's a hope, that's a yearning."

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 is 'One Day', an opportunity for everyone to stand together with their local community across boundaries of difference.

Tom Godwin is not afraid to speak out against anti-semitism despite being sent a razor blade early in 2022. Credit: ITV West Country

Among those at the ceremony in Plymouth was Tom Godwin, chief executive of Citizens Advice Exeter, who has been subjected to anti-Semitic abuse. Most recently a razor blade was sent to him in the post with an anti-Semitic death threat, which he has shared on social media.

Tom said: "I'm just doing a little bit of standing up and speaking out because I think we should to show people that it's here, it's in Devon. It does happen and it could be happening to somebody you know who is Jewish.

"By talking about it, by showing the horror of that letter and what arrived, I'm seeking to show people that anti-Semitism still is a major thing.

"And it's days like today when you realise the horror of where it can all end up and that actually, it's really important that we speak about these issues and make a big deal about it."

People have been asked to "light the darkness" on Holocaust Memorial Day. Credit: ITV West Country

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, landmarks across the country, including Exeter's historic Guildhall, are being lit up in purple.

At 8pm, people were urged to "light the darkness" by lighting a candle and putting it in their windows safely to remember those who were murdered 'for who they were' and to stand against prejudice today.