Wales yesterday played host to Britain’s national Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorating the 61st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by allied troops.

The event held at the Cardiff Millennium Centre was the highlight of a week of remembrance across the nation. It marked the anniversary of the liberation of the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Nazis murdered Jews, Poles, Romas and Gypsies, gay men and women, political prisoners, people with disabilities, and others during the Second World War.

The United Nations formally declared today, the 27th January as an international day of remembrance for the Holocaust.

The events, which took place in Wales yesterday, were organised around the theme “One Person Can Make a Difference”. Participants included Clare Keen Thyrin, whose family were part of the Belgian resistance group and hid a young Jewish girl during the war, and General Romeo Dallaire, the U.N General who tried to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and who is the focus of the film ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’.

Holocaust Survivors living in Britain, together with those involved in their rescue, as well as religious and political leaders, attended the event. These latter participants included the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Archbishop of Wales, The Most Reverend Dr. Barry C Morgan, and Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of Wales.

Others taking part in the event will included Welsh Opera Singer, Katherine Jenkins, The Holocaust Memorial Day Orchestra (assembled especially for this event), The Penylan Synagogue Choir, the National Dance Company of Wales and Simon Weston OBE, Falklands veteran and founder of charity Weston Spirit, which promotes the personal and social development of socially excluded and disaffected young people.

Children from a number of Welsh schools and from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds read a specially commissioned poem by Gillian Clarke, Cardiff’s 2005 Centenary Poet, and will tell how they have made a difference in some small way.

Over 500 separate community and school events also marked the UK’s sixth annual Holocaust Memorial Day across the UK, from Enniskillen to Edinburgh, Norwich to Jersey and Aberdeen to the Isle of Wight.

The United Nations formally declared today, the 27th January as an international day of remembrance for the Holocaust. However, the UK opted for last night to be the main focus of rememberance in order to include Jews and Muslims who would not be able to take part had the event have been held on a Friday evening. Commenting on the day, Dr Stephen Smith, Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which is responsible for overseeing the commemoration, said:

Cardiff Council Leader Cllr Rodney Berman said, “I am honoured that Cardiff Council has been chosen to host the sixth annual UK Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration event. It is an incredibly important occasion and is it is a privilege for us to be allowed to show our respects for all those people who did make a difference during this dark period in our history.”

Rhodri Morgan, First Minister for Wales, said: “The purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day is to ensure that the Holocaust’s horrendous crimes against humanity are never forgotten, and its relevance for each new generation is fully understood. This national commemoration event in Cardiff will make a difference because it will help promote a democratic and tolerant society that respects and celebrates diversity, free of the evils of prejudice and racism.”