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Northumbria hosts Holocaust Memorial Day lecture

25th January 2023

A public lecture will take place at Northumbria University’s Newcastle campus to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2023.

Each year tens of thousands of activities take place across the UK to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th.

During Northumbria’s Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture, taking place on January 26th, two scholars of the Holocaust will discuss ‘resistance’ in two Nazi concentration camps - Auschwitz and Janowska, in Lviv, Ukraine.

Dr Dominic Williams and Dr Waitman Beorn will discuss how prisoners were able to resist camp regimes that forced them to live and die in extreme conditions.

Dr Williams, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities at Northumbria, will talk about Auschwitz-Birkenau, especially the uprising of October 7th, 1944, by members of the Sonderkommando - the prisoners who were forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria of Birkenau.

His talk will include how that uprising came about, how it has been remembered, and the importance that it had for other prisoners in Auschwitz. He will show how resistance took the form not only of violent struggle, but also of efforts by members of the Sonderkommando and others to document the mass murder being carried out in the camp.

“The Sonderkommando left written records of the atrocities they witnessed and their own efforts to resist,” said Dr Williams. “At first, they look to have left them unsigned, perhaps as a precaution in case these documents were found.

“Later, when many had been killed in the uprising, and it was clear that few of them would survive, they recorded names - their own, those of their families and those of their comrades. Knowing that they would die, they wanted to be remembered. Holocaust Memorial Day gives us the chance to do this.”

Dr. Waitman Beorn, an Assistant Professor in History at Northumbria, will centre his talk around resistance at the the Janowska camp in Lviv. 

The camp witnessed a prisoner uprising in which several Nazi SS guards were killed, and in which many prisoners managed to escape. Despite being a concentration camp that few have ever heard of, as many as 80,000 Jews were murdered at Janowska and it was complicit in the deportation of hundreds of thousands to the extermination centre at Belzec.

Holocaust remembrance not only includes opportunities to develop a deeper appreciation of the victims and survivors, but it can inform our response to the plight of contemporary victims of atrocities today. Focusing on the humanity of the victims of the Holocaust prompts us to remember our own humanity, says Dr Beorn. 

“I think it’s important to commemorate the Holocaust because it reminds that while it was an extraordinary event, it was carried out by ordinary people against other ordinary people,” he said. “Remembering the Holocaust forces us to recognise that we are capable of both great good and great evil. 

“More recent genocides and mass atrocities sadly demonstrate that this phenomenon has not been consigned to history.  Holocaust Remembrance Day is about memorialising the loss of so many to Nazi genocide and a reminder that it is still possible for similar tragedies to take place today.”

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as an International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honour the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational opportunities to help prevent future genocides. The 2023 theme for International Holocaust Remembrance Day is “Home and Belonging.”

For more information about the Holocaust Memorial Day lecture at Northumbria University and to sign up to the event visit 

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