People to light candles as royals and footballers among those marking Holocaust

People will light a candle in their window and national monuments will be bathed in purple light on Wednesday evening to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in recognition of the millions killed in the genocide.

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cambridge, Premier League footballers and the Prime Minister are among those to support the day of remembrance.

Charles, patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, urged people to ensure survivors’ stories are remembered forever amid the dwindling number able to bear first-hand witness to the horrors of the genocide, which saw millions of Jews and other minorities executed during the Second World War at the hands of the Nazis.

Kate was visibly moved during a video call with two concentration camp survivors, telling them their “dedication in educating the next generation, the younger generations, about your experiences and the horrors of the Holocaust shows extreme strength and such bravery in doing so, it’s so important and so inspirational”.

Boris Johnson described the testimonies of a concentration camp survivor and a British soldier who helped liberate Bergen-Belsen as “perhaps the most powerful things I have ever heard” in a call from Downing Street.

National landmarks across Britain, including Wembley Stadium, Cardiff Castle and the Tyne Bridge, will be among those turning purple temporarily at 8pm on Wednesday, at the moment people across the country light a candle, following an hour-long online remembrance ceremony.

Pre-recorded messages from Premier League footballers Jordan Henderson and Bruno Fernandes, and contributions from religious leaders and celebrities including adventurer Bear Grylls, will feature in the online service.

This year’s theme – being the light in the darkness – was decided 18 months ago, but the global coronavirus pandemic, which has seen deaths, ill-health, economic ruin, school closures and mental health problems, means it has taken on added resonance.

Charles will tell the ceremony: “As I speak, the last generation of living witnesses is tragically passing from this world, so the task of bearing witness falls to us.

“This is not a task for one time only, nor is it a task for one generation, or one person.

“It is for all people, all generations, and all time.

“This is our time when we can, each in our own way, be the light that ensures the darkness can never return.”

Holocaust Memorial Day
Holocaust Memorial Day

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), said survivors were the perfect inspiration for positivity.

She told the PA news agency: “There has been real distress and pain and suffering felt in this country and around the world in this pandemic.

“But the survivors I spoke to – many who are shielding – are the epitome of strength and are getting on with it.

“Bearing in mind what they have experienced and suffered, they give words of wisdom to just keep going, we are going to get out of this.

“I find that pretty inspiring from 90-year-old survivors who have been through the very worst and could easily let this get on top of them. But this says a lot about them because they really are remarkable.”

Ms Pollock said the Holocaust is important to remember because it is “part of British history”.

She said: “A lot of people might think it happened somewhere else to someone else, but what we understand really is that the Holocaust happened to people in this country – survivors living here now, or people who fled and became British citizens – but also those members of the armed forces who liberated (concentration camp) Bergen-Belsen in April 1945.

“So my message to people this year is this: Hear the stories, listen to the eyewitnesses, find out about what happened to these people, and understand that when we are learning about the past, it is for the sake of learning history but it is also because we can learn from it.”

Last week, Mr Johnson told Prime Minister’s Questions of “the need to continue to inoculate our populations, ourselves, against the wretched virus of anti-Semitism, which has a tendency to recur and re-infect societies including, tragically, our own”.

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