More than 1,600 people including survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides are attending a memorial service at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.

The annual event, held as Liverpool acts as European Capital of Culture falls on the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

The Nazis murdered gay men and women, Jews, Poles, Romas and Gypsies, political prisoners, people with disabilities, and others during the Second World War.

Between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were held in concentration camps by the Nazis as members of an “anti-social group.” Historians estimate that 60% of them died while incarcerated.

After the war gay men were not recognised as victims of the Holocaust and many were re-imprisoned by the authorities because of the sexuality.

They were denied the reparations and state pensions available to other groups.

Among those attending the ceremony today are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears.

Christine Shaw, of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said: “On Holocaust Memorial Day, we reflect on the lessons society can learn from the Holocaust and other genocides in an effort to tackle the intolerance and prejudice that still exists in the UK today.

“There has been huge interest from all over the UK and it is wonderful to see the commitment of so many sections of society in marking the day.”

Karen Pollock, of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told BBC Radio Five Live that it is important to learn the lessons of the Holocaust: “The fact is that racism still exists, that genocide is taking place in Darfur, and genocide has happened since the Holocaust, for instance Cambodia [and] Rwanda.

“This is an opportunity for people to come together and say ‘never again’ and mean it and act upon it.”

Tomorrow, politicians will hold a ceremony to remember gay and other victims murdered by the Nazis in Westminster.

150 teenagers and young people from across the London borough will present a powerful and poignant mix of drama, video and singing through a series of digital media presentations as they take part in a solemn ceremony.