It is increasingly important, in times where division and hateful language appear to be growing, for us to remember what can happen when those words become actions. That is why every year I sign the Book of Commitment that is placed in Parliament before Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.
The date of Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi Death camps: the day when the true impact of anti-Semitism and the Final Solution started to come to light. Once fully uncovered, it was revealed over 6,000,000 European Jews were murdered, and the Roma, Sinti and Slavic peoples all suffered persecution. It was the largest genocide in history.
Unfortunately the lessons of the Holocaust were not learnt, which means there are other genocides that we must also contemplate on Holocaust Memorial Day. Over two million were killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975-79. In just 100 days around one million were murdered in Rwanda in 1994. In the Bosnian War of 1995, 100,000 people died and over two million were displaced. And in Darfur, ethnic violence has continued for 15 years to this very day and caused the death of up to 400,000 innocent civilians.
The UK was one of the first to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. Through the activities of groups like the Holocaust Educational Trust the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, children are given the resources and opportunities to learn from some of the darkest moments of human history and not repeat their mistakes. From classroom materials to testimonies from survivors and creative works like films and poetry, children have the opportunity to hear these stories and learn the lessons, so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.