We reflect on International Holocaust Memorial Day and 'Fragility of Freedom' theme

Friday 26 Jan 2024
IHMD commemorations will culminate with the Light the Darkness National Moment at 8pm on Saturday 27 January

On 27 January each year, people throughout the United Kingdom unite to reflect on the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of people who lost their lives under Nazi persecution of other groups, as well as those in more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

The theme for International Holocaust Memorial Day (IHMD) this year is 'Fragility of Freedom,' emphasising the delicate nature of freedom, acknowledging its susceptibility to erosion. Essentially, the idea is that freedom is not to be taken for granted; it must be cherished and protected. The Holocaust serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences when individual freedoms are compromised.

As the nation’s number one sport, football has the power to bring people together in so many ways, can eradicate social barriers and be a force for good across communities. One of our key commitments is to do everything in our power to deliver a game free from discrimination and that will never stop which is why IHMD is so important.

International Holocaust Memorial Day is held on 27 January each year

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, reflects on the power of football at this time of reflection during IHMD: “Football is a game that has a unique ability to transcend geographical borders and bring people together in a spirit of friendship. Its inclusive nature and unifying power resonate deeply with the message of Holocaust Memorial Day.

"It’s not just about remembering the past, but about actively embracing its lessons. It’s a call to action. In the spirit of football, where every member of the team contributes something unique, we commit to tolerance and understanding, creating a world where everyone feels welcome, regardless of individual beliefs or experiences.”

Some of the FA’s and Wembley Stadium’s own Jewish colleagues have also spoken about what IHMD means to them such as Club Wembley sales executive, Mathew Lang on how IHMD holds profound significance for him: “It is a time to reflect on the atrocities of the past, honour the victims, which includes many members of my own family that sadly perished in the Holocaust, and to make sure we prevent such horrors in the future. It underscores the collective responsibility to promote empathy, understanding and unity across all of humanity globally.”

Wembley Stadium sales account executive, Matthew Zartz reflects on this year’s IHMD theme after reading Holocaust survivor and author Viktor E. Frankl’s book entitled ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’: “Whilst the accounts of life in a concentration camp are undeniably chilling, you will never find yourself dispirited for long as the author persistently inspires with his insistence on finding meaning and purpose in the face of unimaginable suffering.

"On the fragility of freedom, Dr Frankl wrote: 'Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way'. In a world where one can’t help but feel helpless at times as we often seem incapable of learning from the mistakes of the past, I think it is our duty to remember that it is the choices we make that can shape our lives and our collective choices that can ultimately shape our world”.

Club Wembley marketing manager Elliott Cantor recalls how he remembers IHMD every year: “We remember the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution, and bring together people from all backgrounds in doing so. When thinking about the Holocaust, I always think about family that were lost. One of my relatives on my father’s side, a Holocaust survivor, lost his mother, two brothers and sister in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

"To this day he has his prisoner number tattooed on his arm, a constant reminder of his time in the camps, and the family that were murdered. The prisoners in these camps were ‘just a number’ to the Nazis – but this number has become so powerful since then, one of survival, and hope.  I visited the camps in Auschwitz in 2010, and it brought home how truly horrific this period was under the Nazis – one that should never, ever be forgotten, and never repeated – ‘Never again’.”

Rabbi Lerer and his family have been a regular at England games over the past 25 years

Rabbi Barry Lerer is the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue, the oldest of the 62 United Synagogue congregations. He is also a passionate football fan and England supporter, having been to over 50 games since 1996. Reflecting on IHMD, Rabbi Lerer said: “International Holocaust Memorial Day was introduced around 25 years ago in the UK. The Jewish community saw this as a very welcome sign, as we also observe our own memorial day for the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah, around April or May time each year. Having an international Holocaust Memorial Day, helps to bring it to a wider audience."

England players visited Auschwitz during their time in Poland for UEFA EURO 2012

International Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone. It brings people together from all walks of life to strengthen communities and stand up against hatred and discrimination.

On Saturday, millions across the nation will pay tribute to those murdered because for who they were. The commemorations will culminate with the Light the Darkness National Moment at 8pm. Everyone is encouraged to light a candle and place it securely in their window. This gesture is not just an act of remembrance but also a powerful demonstration of solidarity with people facing persecution today.

Many thanks to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for their support on this feature. To learn more about their work, please visit https://www.hmd.org.uk/

By FA Staff