The international day marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in Poland, by the Soviet Union, on 27 January 1945. It was first recognised as national event in the UK in January 2001. Four years later, on the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, the United Nations General Assembly designated the day an international remembrance event.
Sport and the Holocaust
In Nazi Germany, sport was one of the first areas of life that the Fascist regime used to exclude Jewish people and other minorities from society.
German sporting associations banned Jewish, Roma and Sinti athletes from practicing sports in accordance with the ‘Aryans only’ policy from 1933.
Nowadays and despite sport’s unique power of uniting people, discrimination including racism and anti-Semitism, continue to take place in football grounds. The presence of extreme nationalist and far-right mindsets and behaviour among some fan groups still presents a major threat to the creation of an inclusive environment in stadiums.
Every year on 27 January sporting initiatives continue to raise awareness of the dangers of exclusion and discrimination and honour the memory of those who were denied basic Human Rights 69 years ago.
By participating in sport people can learn together, understand, respect and tolerate diversity.
Initiatives across Europe
The English football club West Ham United pledged their commitment to promote tolerance and inclusion in 2014 by marking the Holocaust Memorial Day at the Barclays Premier League match against Newcastle on 18 January.
Before the kick-off six candles, representing the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, were lit at the Boleyn Ground by West Ham United Joint-Chairman David Gold, Board member Daniel Harris, Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, Westminster Synagogue Rabbi Thomas Salamon, Holocaust survivor and Olympic weightlifter Ben Helfgott and Royal British Legion East Ham branch secretary Ken Hill.
In Germany, several initiatives are being held to commemorate the day.
The German Football Association DFB remembered the importance of football to send across a message of inclusion through their initiative ‘Never Again – Memorial Day initiative in German football’ (Nie Wieder! Initiative Erinnerungstag im deutschen Fussball).
“Football brings us together, that is its strength. The ‘Never again!’ project tackles exclusion and division. Our love and passion for football and for our clubs brings people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions together.” read a statement.
The supporters of St. Pauli and other fan groups will gather outside the Hamburg team’s stadium, where a ceremony will take place followed by a panel discussion featuring the daughter of the Jewish resistance soldier Kurt van der Walde.
The city of Rostock premiered an exhibition about Jews in German football. The premiere was followed by discussions on the murders of Jewish footballers during the Holocaust, including the German international Julius Hirsch.
Bayern Munich will preview the documentary of Kurt Landauer’s life, a Jew who played for the club and was its President four times for a total of 18 years between 1913 and 1951, on 2 February. Tickets can be won for the preview that will be followed by a panel discussion.
Borussia Dortmund will be holding an event at the club’s museum, Borusseum, on National Socialism. The event will take place today and is free to attend.
In Poland, Fare’s partner NEVER AGAIN Association will contribute their views on contemporary issues of racism and anti-Semitism in connection with the commemoration of the day in a Polish radio discussion.
Members of the Polish organisation will also participate in Warsaw’s official commemorations at the Ghetto Heroes Monument, where they will anti-racist informative materials.
The Portuguese LGBT youth group Rede Ex Aequo staged a flashmob in Lisbon to honour the Holocaust’s LGBT victims. The group displayed two large triangles, one in black and other in pink, to recreate the symbols used in concentration camps to mark and stigmatise, respectively, gay women and men.
20 years since Rwanda
In 2014, the International Holocaust Memorial Day also honours the lives of those who fell victims in Rwanda during the genocide of ethnic Tutsis in 1994.
The Human Rights Watch estimates that over 500,000 people, nearly 20% of the country’s total population, were killed.
The documentary ‘Rising from Ashes’ tells the story of the first Rwandan National Cycling Team and their six year journey to the Olympic games in London. The film also shows how sport gave a second chance to those whose lives and families were torn apart because of the genocide.