Why marking Holocaust Memorial Day is important for employers

Olivia Marks

Olivia Marks-Woldman,Chief Executive for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT)  on why marking Holocaust Memorial Day is important for businesses and their employees.

On the 27 January each year people all across the world pause to remember all those affected by the Holocaust and Nazi persecution as part of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). Here in the UK we also use this opportunity to reflect on subsequent genocides that have taken place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, whilst examining contemporary issues of hatred and intolerance.

As Chief Executive for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) I am lucky to witness each year the incredibly powerful events and activities that groups all over the UK stage to mark HMD. Last year over 3,600 activities took place throughout the UK, inspiring people to explore experiences and life stories of the past in order to create a safer, better future.

HMD is not just a day for civic organisations, faith groups or schools to take part in. We all have a responsibility to remember those affected by the Holocaust and genocides and to examine these subjects to ensure similar situations are not allowed to take place in future.

This year our theme is Don’t stand by. The Holocaust and subsequent genocides all took place because the local populations allowed insidious persecution to take root. Whilst some actively supported or facilitated state policies of persecution, the vast majority stood by silently – at best, afraid to speak out; at worst, indifferent. Although we are not at risk of genocide here in the UK today, it is still vitally important to be aware of the dangers posed by intolerance and hatred. For many of us, our workplaces form a huge part of our lives, somewhere where we interact with others and spend a large amount of our time day to day. It is only right then that we encourage our colleagues to value difference and stand up to intolerance wherever we see it.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes should be committed to the values of equality and diversity, recognising the contributions individuals from all backgrounds can make to their working environment. HMD can provide a focal point for workplaces wishing to recognise the values of respect and tolerance.

We realise that all businesses face time pressures, but whether you only have time to display posters from our free Activity Pack or can invest more time organising a short film screening for employees, marking HMD can leave a lasting impression on participants. Previous organisations that have marked HMD have found activities help employees engage with contemporary themes and develop an interest in issues around equality and diversity.

HMDT provides a wide range of life stories, guides, activity templates and other resources to help you plan your activity. These include our Workplace Get Involved Guide which includes practical activity ideas and our new LGBT guide developed in partnership with Diversity Role Models, exploring Nazi Persecution of LGBT people and offering contemporary perspectives on discrimination.

The Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides were built around dangerous ideologies that time and again were used to target minorities and those who simply didn’t fit desired criteria. During Nazi rule, black people, gay people, those with disabilities, Roma/Sinti people and political opponents were targeted and killed simply for being themselves. We are lucky to live in a country where freedom and tolerance are core values, however equally we should not become complacent to the dangers of hate crime and discrimination that some still face today.

Recent government and police figures show that in 2014/15, there were 52,528 hate crimes recorded by the police, an increase of 18 per cent compared with the 44,471 hate crimes recorded in 2013/14.

On 27 January 2016 please mark Holocaust Memorial Day in your own workplace and encourage fellow staff to consider our theme: Don’t stand by.

For more information or to access any of the resources HMDT offers, please visit hmd.org.uk or call 020 7785 7029.

Don't Stand By - Holocaust Memorial Day logo