Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023: UK statement to OSCE

Thank you Mr Chair, thank you Ambassador Ann Bernes, for your introductory comments, and your work as President of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Tomorrow we will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, to remember and honour the lives of the six million Jewish men, women and children as well as, Roma, Sinti and others who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazi regime during World War II. This was one of the darkest moments in human history.

The UK’s theme for this year highlights the role of “ordinary people” – as perpetrators, victims, and rescuers. These people actively had choices to make – whether or not to perpetrate genocide; whether or not to stand by and actively ignore what was going on around them. There were those who took a stand against hatred, by coming forward to help those in need – whether by hiding people, providing food, or helping people to escape. They were ordinary people too… doing extraordinary things. It remains an extraordinary and uplifting fact that ordinary people in Denmark managed to save almost all of their countries Jewish populations. They were hidden in churches, hospitals and family homes, and spirited to coastal towns, from where they were taken to safety in Sweden. Sadly, there were also many who stood by silently and did nothing.

We will soon reach a point when the march of time means that the Holocaust will no longer be part of our living history. With that comes a growing concern about the rise of Holocaust denial and distortion – recasting history to erase the devastating horrors faced by the Jewish people. We have a duty to remember them and keep their testimony alive for future generations.

Holocaust distortion feeds the despicable scourge of antisemitism, which has no place in any society. We must continue to stand against it in all its forms, and to reject any attempts to deny the facts of the Holocaust. History is too important to be politicised.

We will continue to drive international efforts to promote Holocaust education, and counter Holocaust denial and distortion when the UK takes the Chairpersonship of IHRA in March 2024. To ensure we never forget the horrors, or forget the hard lessons we learnt – the UK has committed to building a new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London, expected to open in 2027.

As we mark this poignant day, Mr Chair and the six million people who were not saved during World War II – let us reflect. Let us remember. And let us never forget.

Thank you.

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