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Holocaust Memorial Day: Mayor of London and London Assembly pay respects

Wednesday January 27 marks Holocaust Memorial Day, which is held annually to remember the six million Jewish people killed during the Second World War

Wednesday January 27 marks Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, held to remember the six million Jewish people killed during the Second World War.

Events will take place across the world today to mark the memorial, which also commemorates subsequent genocides around the world including Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur.

The memorial is held on January 27, as that date in 1945 is the day the Auschwitz concentration camp in modern-day Poland was liberated by Soviet soldiers, nearly eight months before the war officially ended.

When the Soviets arrived at the camp, around 7,000 sick and dying people remained.

READ MORE: Jewish locals collectively write Holocaust book in remembrance

In the five years it was open, an estimated 1.1m people were killed at the concentration camp, around 90% of whom were Jewish.

The remainder were a mix of nationalities including Romany people, Soviet people and Polish prisoners.

Between 1942 and 1945, Jewish people were brought into the camp from across Europe by train and then massacred in gas chambers.

January 27 also marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "Today we remember the millions of people who lost their lives in both the Holocaust and other appalling acts of genocide.

"Recent events here in London and in our sister city Paris, as well as other parts of the world, remind us of the importance of cherishing and defending freedom and tolerance.

"It is vital that we keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and learn from the atrocities of the past."

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, the infamous camp where Jews and others were imprisoned

The memorial

Holocaust Memorial Day began in the UK in 2001, and has been marked every year on the same date since.

Each year has a theme, including "Remembering Genocides: Lessons for the Future" and "One Person Can Make a Difference".

There is a strong focus on trying to ensure mankind doesn't repeat the horrific mistakes of its past by learning from the Holocaust.

The 2016 theme is "Don't Stand By", the idea being that everyone takes personal responsibility for the world we live in.

The chair of the London Assembly Jennette Arnold, the Mayor of London and Members of the Assembly today joined MPs, Rabbi Raphy Garson, Holocaust survivors and other Londoners at City Hall's annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony.

The mayor gave a reading from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Ms Arnold OBE AM, said: "In October last year, I was honoured to travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau as a guest of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

"For many of us, our understanding of the Holocaust is largely focused on the millions that perished in the gas chambers.

"'How was this even possible?' is the question that continues to be asked. Sadly, the simple answer is because too many stayed silent.

"How appropriate then that the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 is 'Don't Stand By'."

How to get involved

There will be dozens of events and exhibitions held to mark the Holocaust today and over the next week across the country.

Among them, Brent Council has arranged an event this evening at Brent Civic Centre.

The BBC will be broadcasting the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day for the second year running.

The programme will be screened on BBC Two at 7pm tonight, and will be presented by Mishal Husain, from Radio 4's Today programme.

Check local listings in your area for regional events or visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website here.

The Twitter profile is @HMD_UK and the hashtag being used this year is HMD2016.

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