Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Holocaust Memorial Day has taken place in the UK since 2001, and is for everyone. There are more than 10,000 local activities taking place all across the UK on or around 27 January, including a commemoration event by us on the 3rd February.

Each year, thousands of people come together across the UK, and the world, to learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future. The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation, and genocide must still be resisted every day. Our world often feels fragile and vulnerable and we cannot be complacent. Even in the UK, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all.

This year marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia. Not only is this a time to remember those impacted by these events, but also a reminder that we must learn from history and look to prevent acts of genocide ever happening again in the future.

Together we bear witness for those who endured genocide and honour the survivors, as well as all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.

Stand Together

“It's now more important than ever that we are not divided by things happening in the world, and you don't let these people divide you.” Andrew Roland told us in a recent conversation about Holocaust Memorial Day. “We should try to stand together with other communities. This is crucial!”

Andrew works with us as a Data & Model Governance & Assurance Lead, and took the time to tell us about what the commemoration ceremony means for him and his family. He told us how important it is for everyone to remember those that perished under Nazi persecution, as well as those that followed in acts of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

“We were very lucky and our family escaped. We have Russian and Polish ancestors but they got out, so our immediate family was all over here before any of it started. So we didn't have anyone directly affected.”

Andrew told us how he likes to take his family along to his local synagogue around Holocaust Memorial Day each year to hear live accounts from survivors, of which there are inevitably a dwindling number. He emphasised the importance of hearing these accounts first hand and how inspiring these people are.

“You can see someone in front of you who’s been through all of that and recounts their own experience. They’re incredibly inspiring. Their sense of forgiveness and how they get on with a normal life after is quite extraordinary. These people are so strong.”

He also told us about the Yellow Candle Project, where a candle is lit to remember those who suffered 75 years ago.

“There are many victims of the holocaust who don’t have family to remember them, so this project allows people like myself to light a candle for them. To make sure they are still being remembered.”

The RBS Jewish Society

Andrew was one of a small number of people who created our Jewish Society in 2015, to give Jewish colleagues a network of like-minded people. They reached out to members of the Rainbow Network, who represent our LGBT community, to build an understanding of what potential obstacles they would need to overcome. They also sought support from the bank, which helped them grow from being underrepresented across the business to the globally represented faith group they are today.

Andrew told us how the society sent out guidance for managers across the business to highlight how Jewish festivals and celebrations may impact Jewish colleagues.

“It was important for us to provide an opportunity for people to request time to be away from work with loved ones when it matters most in our faith. This awareness wasn’t always there.”

The Jewish Society’s first event was Holocaust Memorial Day 2016, and each year has seen increasing numbers of people attending across the UK and the world in locations such as Manchester, London, Warsaw and Stamford, USA. This year’s theme is ‘Stand Together’ and our CEO Alison Rose will introduce a key speaker, Lord Alfred Dubs, a Labour politician and leading refugee rights advocate. Lord Dubs arrived in Britain in 1939 as a six year old refugee after fleeing the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, and is now campaigning alongside Safe Passage. This is to make sure that the main legal routes for refugee children to reach the UK remain open after Brexit, as well as encouraging the government to accept 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children over the next 10 years.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity each year for people around the UK to unite with those in their local community, across boundaries of faith, age and ethnicity. We can all learn about those affected by genocide around the world and make any necessary changes for the future. This is a chance to celebrate how strong we are when we all stand together.