Holocaust Memorial Day

Jan. 4, 2022

27th January

Every year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the world comes together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering the millions of people killed by the Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Dafur. To this day the Holocaust remains one of the biggest threats to society and the day encourages people to unite to take action to create a safer future.

Elie Weisel's story

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” 

Elie Weisel was born in Romania and was 15 when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz, where both his parents and sister were killed.  Along with other strong men and women he was forced into hard labour so long as he was physically able. Having survived the war, he initially lived in France where he wrote his first book about his experience before moving to the United States in 1955.

Before his death in 2016, he wrote over 40 books and is thought of amongst the most important survivors in describing the Holocaust from a personal perspective. He received many prizes and honours for his work including a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and an honorary Knighthood in 2006.

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Elie Weisel

The theme for 2022: One More Day

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 is One More Day, which can be interpreted in a number of ways:-

  1. One Day for Holocaust Memorial Day – one day which people put aside to remember and learn about the past, empathise with others and take action to ensure a future with no genocides.
  2. One Day in history – you could choose one day in history to learn about considering how many lives changed during the holocaust and what happened to the people involved. For a more in-depth study you could look at the same date in different years and compare what was happening in different countries.
  3. One Day when life changed – Holocaust and genocide survivors talk about the one day each of their lives changed, whether for the worse or better.
  4. One Day at a time – many survivors believed that taking one day at a time helped them get through years of hardship.
  5. One Day in the future - this could either be used to think about the individual dreams of survivors of the one day when their suffering will be over or actions people can take when they see injustices, prejudices and identity-based violence.
  6. One Day as a snapshot – try focusing on just one day of the months and years of people who have suffered, as a starting point for learning about the full horror of what happened.

Teaching the Holocaust

Teaching the Holocaust to primary-aged children can be intimidating, but there are lots of resources out there to help:

Holocaust Memorial Day webinar recording

We recently held a webinar to demonstrate Key Stage 2 resources that can be used to support the teaching of this sensitive subject. Teachers were given practical tips, suggested activities and discussions which may help pupils develop a sense of empathy for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been tragically affected by genocide.

Gillian Walnes Perry MBE, co-founder and Vice President of the Anne Frank Trust UK, joined us to discuss why it is important for children to continue to learn about the Holocaust and the meaningful ways that the studying of Anne Frank can support pupils with their personal development and preparation for transitioning to secondary school.

To keep up to date with all our webinar recordings, update videos and more, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 2: Free Download

This guide is for teachers in Key Stage 2 who are teaching about the Holocaust, it aims to give teachers guidance and confidence in teaching this sensitive subject. The guide contains suggested activities, a range of pictures and personal stories that can be used with KS2 children and was compiled by Gillian Walnes Perry MBE, Co-founder and Vice President of the Anne Frank Trust UK with thanks to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and to Helen Wiseman, Holocaust educator at Primary Level. The pack can be found in the Teacher area in Purple Mash, or can be downloaded for non-subscribers.

Purple Mash resources

There are a range of resources that can be used on Holocaust Memorial Day that are mentioned in the Teacher Pack and can also be found within Purple Mash, including resources that focus on the life of Anne Frank.

This year we've added a range of writing exercises that help children contextualise the Holocaust, from thinking about how they would be kind and welcoming, to a new classmate to a day that changed their life, to considering what they can do to help others that may be being treated unfairly.

The Holocaust Memorial Day area of Purple Mash also includes various resources based on survivors Sigi Ciffer and Mindu Hornick.

Sigi's Story

The story of Sigi Ciffer is one that could be used in the lead up to Holocaust Memorial Day (this story is suitable for Year 6 pupils and is not recommended for children younger than this age).  He tells you about his experiences in the war, how he survived and what happened to his family. This video features a short interview with Sigi.

Sigi’s story shows that the end of the Holocaust was the beginning of a new story for him. Many survivors were in a similar position; they were far from home and yearned to return. However, when they did return, they found that their family and friends were no longer there and, in most cases, had not survived. Many survivors were not treated with warmth. Antisemitism did not disappear; in many cases, Jewish people were not given back their own homes or possessions. Sigi says himself that he was accused of exaggerating his experiences and describes the pain that this caused him.

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Sigmund (Sigi) Ciffer lights candles at Lanchester EP Primary School in memory of Holocaust victims

Mindu's Story

In more recent years, survivors have felt impelled to share their stories to help others learn from this time in history. The Holocaust Memorial Day area also includes resources focussed on the life of Mindu Hornick, a survivor of Auschwitz. Teachers can view five short video clips and share these with their class (it is advised that staff watch the films themselves before sharing with pupils, this story is suitable for Year 6 pupils and is not recommended for children younger than this age). The short video clips feature Mindu explaining her early life, life in the ghetto, transport to Auschwitz, working in the ammunition factory and freedom. We have also created a series of resources that Year 6 pupils can use following on from watching the clips.  Mindu’s message to children today is to value and care for each other, appreciate the freedom they have and treat everyone as equal.

Today, the Jewish community is as diverse as ever with Jewish people living in most countries in the world and practicing their religion in a huge variety of ways. The population of Jews in the countries most affected by the Holocaust is a fraction of what it was before the war. However, many synagogues have been rededicated to the study of Judaism and the events of the Holocaust. At the same time, antisemitism and racism are still a feature of society and survivors like Sigi and Mindu feel a great need to pass on to future generations their experiences of how humanity can go down a terrible path.