Holocaust Memorial Day 2021: “Be the light in the darkness”
This past year has been more challenging than most, as the pandemic has turned most of our lives upside down. We’ve witnessed the death toll sadly reach over 100,000, a colossal surge in mental health issues and unprecedented pressure on our health services. But in these darker times, it’s a comfort to remember the power of the human spirit to be a shining light - as communities have rallied together in response to the crisis. And that is the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day: “Be the light in the darkness.”
Taking place today (27th January), Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was the largest Nazi death camp where over one million Jews died. It’s a moment to learn lessons from the past and reflect on how we can all play a part in shining a light in the darkness through acts of kindness, solidarity and resistance.
Growing up as part of a Jewish family, my grandparents were fortunate to live in the UK after their parents made the difficult decision to leave Poland, Russia and Ukraine to escape the growing anti-Semitism before the Holocaust. We rarely spoke about my great grandparents’ story or how many of their friends and relatives tragically perished. It was a subject that was brushed under the carpet because it was uncomfortable to talk about – our community was focused on moving forwards.
However, remembering is an important part of moving forwards. Tonight is not just about remembering the millions of victims of the holocaust or those lost in the genocides that sadly followed in places such as Cambodia or Bosnia. Because whilst these genocides may have ended, today serves as a reminder that discrimination and racism continue to exist in many forms.
We can all play our role in being that light in the darkness – be it through individual action, working together with our communities or raising awareness in the workplace. With over 70,000 colleagues - with different beliefs, races and religions - M&S has committed to building a more inclusive future. It has also been open about the fact there is still work to be done in creating a culture where everyone feels they can belong, be themselves and ultimately be their best. But I’m very proud to be part of that change by supporting the Culture and Heritage network, which was recently re-established (formerly BAME) to involve and include more team members from all backgrounds and faiths.
So at 8pm this evening, together with my wife Melanie, I will be lighting a candle in my window to mark Holocaust Memorial Day – not only to remember the lives lost, but to reflect upon how we can shine a light in the darkness towards a better, more inclusive future.