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LONDON – Seventy years on from the greatest atrocity in modern memory, the UK stops to remember the liberation of death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and the vicious anti-Semitic regime that claimed the lives of millions.

On Tuesday this week, the UK stopped to remember the lives of the 1.1 million victims that lost their lives in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The nation collectively put on over 2400 events up and down the country in commemoration of the 70 year liberation anniversary.

From London, to Manchester and Cardiff, the union celebrated the event through the poignant lighting of 70 candles that were designed by sculptor, Anish Kapoor. With one to represent every year since liberation, the candles were lit at venues across the UK by politicians, royal dignitaries and holocaust survivors themselves.

In the London ceremony, 5 of the candles were lit by Holocaust survivors – and in memory of the 20 year anniversary, Bosnian Srebrenica survivors. At the Welsh national commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in Cardiff, Mady Gerrard, a survivor of both Auschwitz-Birkenau and Belsen, delivered a poignant speech addressing the Red Army soldier who liberated her from the camp in 1945. Scotland’s prominent memorial event was held in Ayr and attended by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. There she stated, “Remembering the holocaust, and subsequent genocides, is an honour we owe to the victims – and it’s also a duty we owe to ourselves.” The events in Ayr also included Holocaust and Bosnian war survivors lighting one of the specially commissioned candles designed by Kapoor.

To further mark the historic milestone, at the Westminster ceremony David Cameron announced that the Holocaust Memorial Foundation will receive £50 million funding from the British government. Cameron gave details of how the funding will to go towards the construction of a “striking and prominent” monument at the new Holocaust Memorial museum, as well as funding trips for young people and MP’s to the camp in order to educate those of the atrocities that took place there.

Cameron was joined alongside Chancellor George Osbourne, Deputy-Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband, with whom the event carried personal significance as he lost his grandfather to a Nazi death camp. In his speech he powerfully summed up the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day, stating “When there’s prejudice around the world and we see a rise in anti-Semitism, it’s incredibly important that we keep that memory alive.”

Izzy Lyons, Correspondent (Europe)

Image Courtesy: amanderson2 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/amanderson/2132651225), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic | Flickr

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