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Oxford marks Holocaust Memorial Day

Oxford City Council has announced that seventy-five memorial flames will be lit in Oxford Town Hall as part of this year’s commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. 

Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place on January 27 each year, is the anniversary of the liberation by the Soviet Union of Auschwitz concentration camp, where more than a million people were murdered by the Nazi regime. The day is used to commemorate the Holocaust, which was the ethnic cleansing of more than two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population, in addition to countless political and religious dissidents, the Roma, homosexual men and many others, as well as later genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia and Bosnia. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the latter of these genocides, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims were killed or expelled from Srebenica. 

This year is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the theme for this Holocaust Memorial Day is Stand Together. According to the HMD Trust, this is designed to explore how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression.

To mark the anniversary, Oxford City Council has organised a service of reflection in the Old Library of Oxford Town Hall at 11am on Monday. At this service, to be hosted by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, the 75 flames will be lit and there will be contributions from the City Rector, representatives from the Oxford Jewish Congregation and Oxford Foundation, and Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East. In addition to this, a Yahrtzeit (Yiddish for “a year’s time”) memorial candle will be lit to commemorate the victims of both Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor Craig Simmons, said: “It is important we remember the horrors of the past to avoid them being repeated. Some of my own family came to the UK as refugees from the violent pogroms in Eastern Europe. One of my grandparents escaped from Vitebsk; the widespread massacres of Jews that occurred there in 1941 are well documented. Those family members who remained were certainly killed.”

There are also several events happening across the University.

Harris Manchester College are hosting a service at 11 AM on Sunday, which will include a talk by Dr Brian Klug, senior research fellow and tutor in philosophy at St. Benet’s Hall and a member of the philosophy faculty. He is also a a founder member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights. This is the link for the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/473963013521748/

Keble College will also be running a service at 5:30 PM the same Sunday, with the Oxford Jewish Community choir and Keble College Choir. Details on this link https://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/even…/holocaust-memorial-service/.

On the following day, Monday 27th, Christ Church Cathedral will be running an all-day event, which must be booked in advance. Details here https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/events/oxfords-cathedral/stand-together-holocaust-memorial-day

There will be a concert of remembrance in the Trinity College Sutro Room on Monday at 4pm, with music from the orchestra and the choir. This concert will be accessible to those who cannot enter a Christian chapel for religious or personal reasons.

Oxford Jewish Society writes that: “The Holocaust affects every Jewish community deeply, including ours at Oxford, but its influence goes far beyond the Jewish community. On HMD, we remember the Nazi persecution and genocide, as well as all victims of genocide. We hope that the day can be an opportunity for reflection and continuing the memory of those who perished.”