“Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good.”

(Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from Nazi-occupied Europe)

See below for hymns appropriate to Holocaust Memorial Days.

Stand Together is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2020. The days also marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.  

Resources and suggestions prepared this year by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) explore how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression.

The authors write: “Today, there is increasing division in communities across the UK and the world. Now more than ever, we need to stand together with others in our communities in order to stop division and the spread of identity-based hostility in our society.”

Download a copy of the full HMDT Theme Vision here.

Each year, the HMDT chooses a different theme to enable audiences on Holocaust Memorial Day to learn something new about the past. Every theme is relevant to the Holocaust, Nazi persecutions and to each subsequent genocide.

We are reminded that not only were diverse groups persecuted at the time of the Holocaust (The Porrajmos, ‘Asocials’, Black people, Disabled people, Freemasons, Gay people and Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as Jews) but that, in the years following, in many parts of the world other groups, tribes and people have turned on one another to horrifying effect. So on Holocaust Memorial Day, we also recall peoples of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Hundreds of groups around the country have been creating their own Memorial Flame artworks that mark 75 years since the end of the Holocaust, the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews in Europe. 75 of these Memorial Flames have been selected for a national exhibition that will be launched at the UK Commemorative Ceremony for HMD 2020. More information here.

Hymns appropriate to Holocaust Memorial Day

The question is: are there any hymns appropriate to holocaust Memorial Day? “How shall I sing to God”, asks hymn writer Brian Wren, “when life is filled with bleakness, empty and chill, breaking my will?”

For sure, we may wish to begin in silence, with no words. But then, as the 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day theme ("The Power of Words") reminded us, words can – indeed, must – be used for good.

Grant us words to weave
an armour of the mind,
to keep us sane within the hurts
that torment humankind.

Alan Luff’s hymn God grant us words to speak when words are all we bear (StF 647) can be found in the Reconciliation, Healing and Wholeness section of Singing the Faith (hymns #646-657), and here can be found other hymns – or parts of hymns – that are wholly realistic about the dark experiences we encounter in our world. At the same time, writers like Fred Kaan (God! When human bonds are broken, StF 649) and William Cowper (Heal us, Immanuel! Hear our prayer, StF 650) support us in the Christian endeavour of reconciling those same dark experiences with the hope we find within the love of God.

Maggi Dawn’s Advent hymn Into the darkness of this world (StF 173), prays for God’s light in “this broken place”. As we sing, we acknowledge that neither our form of faith, nor the intensity of our experiences, may be the same, say, as that of the Jewish people herded into Auschwitz; nevertheless it is our task to cry and hope with them and all who suffer “man’s inhumanity to man”. Compare Maggi’s words with Jodi Page Clark’s prayer for mercy: Look around you, can you see? (StF 525).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed just a few days before the defeat of the Nazis

Our singing may also emphasise hope in the darkness (Jan Berry’s Deep in the darkness a starlight is gleaming, StF 625); or reconciliation through faith (We turn to God when we are sorely pressed, StF 640, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – himself murdered by the Nazis).

Or we may confess our culpability in looking away while others suffer (we can’t deny, for example, that anti-Semitism has been justified at times by Christian teachings).

But as we reflect on crimes against great numbers of people, we will endeavour to sing with understanding and with compassion:

How shall I sing to God when life is filled with bleakness,
empty and chill, breaking my will?
I’ll sing through my pain, angrily or aching, crying or complaining
This is my song, I’ll sing it with love.