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Sunday, 27 January, 2002, 15:00 GMT
Thousands gather for Holocaust Day
Auschwitz victims
Holocaust survivors will recall their experiences
Britain's commitment to fighting racism and genocide is being underlined at a series of events in Manchester to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

On the 57th anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, people are being asked to remember the victims of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.

Home Secretary David Blunkett will tell an audience of 1,000 at a ceremony in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall on Sunday that people have a duty to fight the "bigotry and prejudice" which still exists in Britain.

Amanda Kay, who helped to organise the event, said: "It is a combination of poetry, prose, and testimony from survivors.

Survivors

"We've got a series of schools, and communities involved... our events team have been out and about filming them and quite a lot of them will be shown on video."

But some critics of the memorial day argue that such events should not take place while people continue to be persecuted around the world.

At the ceremony, Mr Blunkett will draw a comparison with recent events in Kosovo, Bosnia and Rwanda.

He will say: "The survivors who bear witness today, whose memories of a living hell we should never forget, also remind us that evil is ever present and constant vigilance is necessary."

Bigotry warning

Among those invited to the ceremony were Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and actors Sir Antony Sher and Sir Ben Kingsley.


The horrors like those of the Nazi era can only be thwarted by men and women prepared to take a stand

David Blunkett

It is hoped the event and others across the country will encourage Britons to reflect on the lessons of the Holocaust and the challenges facing the world today.

Mr Blunkett will say: "The horrors like those of the Nazi era can only be thwarted by men and women prepared to take a stand, by nations prepared to act against those who commit genocide.

"We can say 'it must never happen again' but this can only be fulfilled if we will it."

Warning that bigotry and repression still exist in Britain today he said: "We see this not just in the heinous activities of extremist right-wing groups but also in the way innocent law-abiding Muslims and others were abused after the terrorist attacks on 11 September."

The national event - being commemorated by local authorities, schools and community groups across the country - was ending with a reading of the Statement of Commitment for Holocaust Memorial Day.

Created for the UK's first memorial day last year, it includes promises to educate future generations about racism and to oppose prejudice.

Councillor Martin Pagel, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Manchester has been chosen to host Holocaust Memorial Day and it reflects the nature of a city which celebrates its diverse multi-cultural community."

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The BBC's Tony Morris
"Today's message is to make sure that people don't forget"

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