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Humanists UK marks Holocaust Memorial Day

Adam Rutherford lighting a candle in memory of genocide victims for Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2023.

Tonight at 7pm, Humanists UK President Adam Rutherford will be taking part in the UK Commemoration for Holocaust Memorial Day, ahead of the Day itself tomorrow. The event is organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. In his contribution, Adam recounts the 1943 diary entries of Julius Feldman who was held in Kraków Ghetto and Płaszów concentration camp, and did not survive the Holocaust.

Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates those killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, including six million Jews, and the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. The online commemoration will be viewed by survivors, their families, community groups, and schools from across the country. Anyone can register to watch tonight at 7pm.

Tomorrow, on 27 January at 4pm, individuals across the country will light candles in memory of genocide victims and to stand against prejudice and hatred today. Notable buildings and landmarks will light up in purple as a symbol of national remembrance and unity. It is on this date, 78 years ago, that Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp.

Humanists were among those persecuted under the Nazi regime. Their organisations were banned early in the Third Reich, including the German Freethinkers League (Deutscher Freidenkerbund), which at the time boasted a membership of over half a million people. During a speech delivered in Berlin 24 October 1933, Hitler celebrated that he had successfully won his ‘fight against the atheist movement’ and ‘stamped it out’. On 26 August 1934, Hitler cited the ‘atheistic movement’ as one of the ‘symptoms of degeneracy in the world of to-day’, along with ‘Bolshevik culture’ and ‘criminality’.

Humanists UK President Adam Rutherford said:

‘It’s an honour to be asked to take part in his UK Commemoration, alongside national political, faith, and civic leaders, and survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. In marking this historic day, we remember the many lives lost at the hands of the Nazi regime and build solidarity with all those suffering identity – or belief-based persecution everywhere.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘The liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27 January 1945 marked the end of one of the darkest chapters in human history. This date acts as a moment for collective remembrance of the innocent victims of Nazi genocide, including persecuted members of humanist groups.

‘This call to remember unites people across nations and beliefs, but holds special significance for humanists, whose values of individual dignity and fairness were so startlingly absent during the Holocaust and other genocides. This day serves as a reminder for all of us to challenge the injustices we tragically witness today, and the dogmatism that fuels them.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about what happened to humanists during the Third Reich.

Read about secular Jews who helped shape the humanist movement.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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