Northern Ireland is gearing up for a series of events to mark UK Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.
Belfast Lord Mayor Martin Morgan has urged people across the city and the rest of Northern Ireland to take the opportunity to find out about the range of events taking place throughout this month.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration is being organised jointly by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the British Home Office and Belfast City Council.
The day offers today’s society the opportunity to remember those who suffered and died during the Holocaust.
In recognition that 2004 will mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, this year’s national commemoration will have the theme From the Holocaust to Rwanda: lessons learned, lessons still to learn.
Mr Morgan said: “A considerable amount of organisation, imagination and skill has gone into creating a first class, high quality programme of events, not just in Belfast but in other regional centres during January.”
Highlights include a lecture by award-winning journalist and author Fergal Keane and a concert by the Ulster Orchestra.
The Lord Mayor said the memorial day was an opportunity to learn lessons about the past.
“We must never be allowed to forget the past. If we forget it, we overlook the ease with which societies may descend into bigotry, hatred and violence.”
Debra Salem, 2004 Holocaust Memorial Day event director, said the programme of events from January 5 to the end of the month was exciting, stimulating and varied.
“Each event has links to this year’s overall theme but each is also informative, challenging and hopefully inspiring,” she said.
Northern Ireland’s historical connections with the events in Europe that led to the Holocaust will form part of the Memorial Day.
In the spring of 1939 a 70-acre training farm was established at Millisle, Co Down, to provide a safe haven for Jewish refugees.
In the years 1939 to 1948 the farm nurtured a community of almost 200 refugees including a number of survivors of the Holocaust. Some of these survivors and their families continue to play an active role in Northern Ireland today.
One interesting project is “Quilted”, an interactive event which takes place under the River Lagan at the Lagan Weir, which will question the way people cushion themselves from commitment.
Other events include photographic and painting exhibitions and first-hand accounts by individuals now living in Northern Ireland who were affected by the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.
“The overall programme has been designed with the ordinary member of the public in mind, no matter what the age or background,” said Ms Salem.
“I very much hope that all sections of the community will obtain a brochure or contact the HMD office in Belfast over the next few weeks to find out more.”