02/04/2013 11:02 am ET Updated Apr 06, 2013

The Importance of Holocaust Memorial Day

When Holocaust Memorial Day was established in 2001, a lot of thought went into how we could remember that defining episode in history and subsequent genocides, whilst protecting the unique nature of the Holocaust and not allowing the day to become a platform for the agendas of others. I felt then as I do now that whilst there may be people who try to use it for their own ends, that should not stop us from educating and remembering this important episode in history.

This national day of commemoration, which took place Jan. 27, saw thousands of people from all walks of life come together to remember and pay tribute to those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and in subsequent genocides. Events took place up and down the country, with hundreds attending a national event in London on Monday. This was organised superbly by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

This day stands apart from Yom Hashoah -- a day of deeply personal and introspective mourning for the Jewish people, who lost 6 million of their own in the Holocaust. Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone, whatever their faith or background. In the Jewish community, we grow up surrounded by these stories of loss; we are taught a little, but also absorb a lot, from grandparents, parents, friends and communal teachers. They tell us, "This is what happened to us." This is right, and important. But is quite different from Holocaust Memorial Day, a day about finding a space for the whole nation to come together to remember the fate of those who perished, and to reflect on what that means for us as human beings.

At the Holocaust Educational Trust we work with thousands of students in schools up and down the UK -- most of whom have no personal connection to the Jewish community or the Holocaust. For these young people, Holocaust Memorial Day is the one day each year when they can galvanise support for an issue they have, in many cases, come to care about deeply. They come from all different backgrounds, but they share a compulsion to pass on what they have learnt.

The fact is that whilst the Holocaust is an intensely personal Jewish tragedy, it is a tragedy with universal resonance. This national day has become something that Holocaust survivors deeply value. It is a way for us to honour them and pledge to remember. The Chief Rabbi has played no small part in this in his commitment to ensuring that the legacy of Holocaust survivors continues.

We know we should always remain vigilant and that it is up to us to safeguard the sacred memory of the Holocaust. Rather than pander to these fears and hide away, we will tackle this head on with verve and passion and make sure we never forget.