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‘We must learn our lessons from history’

Unite to mark Holocaust Memorial Day with events across the UK
Hajera Blagg, Monday, January 20th, 2020

Holocaust Memorial Day this year on Monday (January 27) observes two important milestones – the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 25th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide.


Today, (January 20), Unite and other trade unions and organisations joined the London Assembly and London Mayor Sadiq Khan for the capital’s official Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony, which is among the first of about 10,000 events which will be held across the UK in the coming days.


The event was particularly poignant because on this very same day 78 years ago – January 20, 1942 — Nazi plans to exterminate all Jewish people in Europe were formalised at the Wannsee conference in Berlin. These plans, which were developed over several months in secret, were known by a chilling euphemism – the Final Solution.


Speaking to UniteLive after the event at City Hall, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner (pictured below) called it an “emotional day” where those who attended heard from Holocaust survivors among other speakers.


steve holocaust memorial

Unite AGS Steve Turner comments after Holocaust Memorial Day event at City Hall, London


“The central focus of today’s event was standing together – which is the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day observations up and down the country,” Turner said. “Never has that been more important than right now when we’ve got hate and division spreading across our communities not just here in the UK but across Europe and indeed across the globe.”


He paid tribute to the six million Jewish people murdered by the Nazi regime, as well as victims in other genocides in Bosnia, in Cambodia, Rwanda “and all of those areas around the world that have seen conflict and extermination of people on the basis of difference – different opinion, a different race or different religion”.


“That intolerance is spreading and it’s incredibly dangerous,” he added. “We have a duty as the trade union movement to stand up against this.”


Turner highlighted Unite’s Unity Over Division campaign, whose educational programme teaches Unite reps and members how to have conversations with friends, family, work colleagues and others to tackle far right ideologies.


“Through our campaign, we’ve taken our message of hope and opportunity and our opposition to hate and division back into our workplaces and our communities, on the bus, down the pub,” he said. “Wherever those conversations are taking place we have to be at the heart of it if we’re going to challenge hate and give people a real alternative to that very, very dangerous narrative led by some incredibly dangerous people right now.”


Turner went on to say that Holocaust Memorial Day is an especially important day for trade unions because “trade unionists were among the first to come under attack as the fascists came to power in the 1930s” with “trade union leaders among the first to be sent to concentration camps”.

Badge denotes political/trade union prisoner at Auschwitz

Badge denotes political/trade union prisoner at Auschwitz

“Whether it was the gay community, socialists, the disabled – all of those were different or indeed could mount collective opposition to the rise of fascism were the first to be taken out by the fascists,” he noted.


Given this history, Turner said it was incredibly important “to learn our lessons from history”.


Though unfortunately, he added, “One of the lessons that we learn of course is that we don’t learn the lessons from history. And that’s just the reality – given our recent history of genocide around the globe.


“If we don’t stand up together now then we’re in for an incredibly dangerous period of history yet again, not just here in the UK but across the globe.”


Unite’s regions will be hosting or supporting Holocaust Memorial Day events across the UK.


On this page, UniteLive will list all Unite Holocaust Memorial Day events as we hear about them. Please send details of your event to unitelive@unitetheunion.org so we can add to our listings below.


Unite national officer for equalities Harish Patel urged Unite members to participate in their local Holocaust Memorial Day events.


“Unite fully supports Holocaust Memorial Day and we continue to work with Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to publicise and take action to mark this day on January 27 and beyond,” he said.




London & Eastern

Unite’s London & Eastern region is marking both National Holocaust Memorial and LGBT+ History Month by screening the film ‘Bent’, about the persecution of gay people in Nazi Germany, on February 11. Contact Unite’s central office for more information.




A free event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day will be held at 12 noon on Monday, January 27 at Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill, Aberdeen AB10 1FQ

South West

Labour Party event in Cheltenham was held on January 19. Victoria Hart from Unite is the first speaker who will speak about  “Unity over Division” campaign


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