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Prayers and Resources for Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day 27 January

Lest we forget

In 2002 the United Kingdom government set up an annual Holocaust Memorial Day. This Day remembers the suffering of the Holocaust/Shoah and other Holocausts such as those in Cambodia and Rwanda. One of the most painful realities for European Christians to deal with is the past complicity of many Christians and churches in the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. A long history of Christian anti-Semitism that fed into numerous persecutions of the Jews, up to and including the Holocaust/Shoah, has also been acknowledged.

We are visiting the past to protect the future. We have to take the path the whole way. We cannot rest nor cease in prayer for peace. Genocide continues today: we think of Rwanda or Darfur.
To be a hope for the future, we must continually visit the past, and confront the present. Do not let us permit the images fade from our mind as we leave today. Let them stir our souls to action.

Let us pray for God’s ancient people, the Jews, the first to hear his word -
for greater understanding between Christian and Jew
for the removal of our blindness and bitterness of heart
that God will grant us grace to be faithful to his covenant and to grow in the love of his name.


text image: 6 million


Almighty God, you love and cherish all whom you have created; forgive us that we have, rejected our Jewish brothers and sisters, and so many others since; grant that we, having come to recognise our complicity in their persecution, may find that forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,

Jeremiah Chapter 1:4-10

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,  before you were born I set you apart;  I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Luke Chapter 4:14-21

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.


Each year British society is invited to observe 27 January as Holocaust Memorial Day.

This date is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp by the Soviet Army on 27 January 1945. In Hebrew the stem of the word Holocaust (olah) means 'burnt offering' and burnt offering is translated into the Greek of the New Testament as holokautoma (o]lokautwma). There have been implications in the past that using the very word 'holocaust' or 'burnt offering' for the atrocities of the Second World War could infer that the Jews were sacrificed on behalf of the rest of the human race, thus almost legitimising terrible acts of genocide. For this reason many Jews prefer to use the word Sho'ah to describe the murder of the Jews and other so called minorities during the Second World War. The word Sho'ah simply means desolation, destruction or catastrophe. 

During the war it is estimated that 2 million Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen troops in the Soviet Union, 3.5 million Jews were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Chelmno, Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka, and half a million Jews died in the ghettos of Eastern Europe of reprisal attacks, hunger, disease, and exhaustion. 6 million in all. Millions more Gypsies, Slavs, Russian POW's, the physically and mentally disabled, homosexuals and others in minority groups perished.

The Holocaust Memorial Day was proposed to commemorate not just the Holocaust or Sho'ah, but also to acknowledge the repeated occurrences of genocide, such as Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, and to renew the commitment of the British people to combat racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.

On Holocaust Memorial Day we pray for those who died when madness ruled the world and evil prevailed on earth. If we forget, the way is prepared for yet more holocausts, yet more Sho'ah. Therefore we must never forget.

Isaiah too was familiar with the concept of mass deportation. The reference to the Galilee of the Gentiles refers to the time of mass deportations under the Assyrian Emperor Tiglath Pileser. His plan was to exchange populations, moving new groups into depleted areas. It is this same Galilee in which Jesus preached about a new kind of freedom, the good news of the Kingdom 700 years later. In recalling and repenting of past evils they laid the foundation for a new covenant relationship with God. Through Jesus they found wholeness, healing and restoration.

At a time when the events of 11 September 2001 and their repercussions are still fresh in our minds the need for wholeness, healing and restoration have once again been emphasised. Whatever the creed, race, colour or religious beliefs of individuals, Jesus entrusts that work to His people. The Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us of dark time times when even survival was not possible for many. It also reminds us of the piercing light of God, shining through His Son Jesus, which will never be extinguished. It reminds us of a resilience of faith which is beyond our understanding.  Sam Cappleman

I Believe

I believe in the sun
though it is late in rising.
I believe in love,
though it is absent
I believe in God
though he is silent...

(Translated from the French by Hilda Schiff. Text from an unsigned inscription found on the wall
of a cave in Cologne where Jews had been hiding, p.184)

This poem, found on the wall of a cave in Cologne where Jews had been hiding, sums up the hope of many of those who endured the Shoah/Holocaust. They trusted in a God of love. They hoped in His love for His people, and in their love for Him. They hoped, even in the darkest hour, in Him. Let us join this legacy of hope. As we leave today, let us be a beacon of Christ’s light shining forth as hope for the world, and let us hope in the one who saves us that one day we shall see Him, and the manifestation of His glorious kingdom on earth.

Web Links and Resources

Israel National Holocaust Memorial Centre: 
The Holocaust World Resource Centre:
Holocaust Links: 
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, The Holocaust Centre:

The Council of Christians and Jews

Powerpoint from CCJ and CTBI

PDF resources


First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out - because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Niemoeller, in prison and concentration camp for eight and a half years


From Belsen a crate of gold teeth,
from Dachau a mountain of shoes,
from Auschwitz a skin lampshade,
Who killed the Jews?

Not I, cries the typist,
Not I, cries the engineer,
Note I cries Adolf Eichmann,
Not I, cries Albert Speer.

My friend Fritz Nova lost his father –
a petty official had to choose.
My friend Lou Abrahms was beaten and starved.

Some men signed their papers,
and some stood guard,
and some herded them in,
and some dropped the pellets,
and some spread the ashes,
and some hosed the walls,
and some planted the wheat,
and some poured the steel,
and some cleared the rails,
and some raised the cattle.
Some smelled the smoke,
Some just heard the news.

Were they Germans? Were they Nazis?
Were they human? Who killed the Jews?
The stars will remember the gold,
The sun will remember the shoes,
The moon will remember the skin.
But who killed the Jews? William Heyen pp. 174-5

The poem poses a crucial question for us: are we doing all we can to stop atrocities today? Where wars rage, who kills these people? As Christians, we are called to witness to our faith. We are called to speak out against injustice, and to preach love not hate. We are called to be like Christ, and to be a light to the world. The legacy of hope is in each one of us. It is in our faith, and in our witness to Christ, and as we leave today, let us promise that we will bear adequate testimony to the hope that is in us.


Blessed be the Lord our God, King of the Universe who causes us to pray for the world of which we are a part; a world of pain and suffering , error and hate, prejudice and ignorance, arrogance and pride.

Lord God of compassion, hear us as we pray for those who suffer today for the horrors of the past. For survivors of the Holocaust whose memory of its awfulness still haunts and hurts.
Compassionate God, Hear Us

Lord God of healing hear us as we pray for those who work for reconciliation and understanding peace, respect and tolerance. Guide organisations that foster friendship and heal hurts and bitter memories, that promote faithful encounter and honest dialogue.
Healing God: Hear Us

Lord God of Truth, hear us as we pray for those who encourage interfaith dialogue and international peace and relations, for those who pioneer new ways of thinking and understanding,
those who encourage fresh visions of a world where we respect each others diversity and celebrate the richness of each others traditions, where we learn from one another and glimpse something of the Mystery that is God.
God of Truth: Hear Us

Lord God of Pity and comfort, hear us as we pray for those who are caught in the world’s conflicts; innocent men, women and children. Hear their cries, feel their pain and loss, see their
God of Pity: Hear Us

God of Mercy, hear us as we pray for those who are dying, with no-one to care for them, no-one to love them, those who die and nobody knows their name. We pray you will send us to the lost and afraid, the destitute and the dying, the lonely and the oppressed. Give us grace, give us energy and give us a vision of your love and empower us to do your will.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Prayers of Penitence - A Litany Of Confession

Lord we confess our day-to-day failure to be human
Lord we confess to you/Lord have mercy

Lord we confess that we often fail to love with all we have and are, often because we do not fully understand what loving means, often because we are afraid of risking ourselves
Lord we confess to you/Lord have mercy/Christ have mercy

Lord we cut ourselves of from each other
Lord we confess to you/Lord have mercy

Lord we confess that by silence and ill considered words. We have built up walls of prejudice. Lord we confess that by selfishness and lack of sympathy, we have stifled generosity and left little time for others. Holy Spirit, speak to us. Help us to listen to your word of forgiveness, for we are very deaf. Come fill this moment and free us from sin.
Cathedral Church of St George, Cape Town (From Desmond Tutu: An African Prayer Book 1995 H&S)

I lay my pain upon Your altar, loving God;
This is my lamb, my ram, my sacrifice,
My plea for pardon, plea for forgiveness
For all my sins of doing and not doing,
Prayers that blossom like flowers out of pain
Above the earth-pull.
My people’s sins have flamed in sacrifice
Upon your altar through slow-moving time.
Pain for all evil, hatred, cruelty,
For the sick of body and the sick of heart,
For all the loneliness, the lovelessness of men and
The unmeasurable loss of those that know not You-
The pain of the world, dear God, I place
Before Your shrine.
Look down in pity and forgiveness.
Cause Your countenance to shine upon us
And give us peace
Prayers for Holocaust Remembrance Day; Liberal Jewish Prayer Book: Siddur Lev Chadesh


Prayers for today

Merciful God, you have called us forth, through your Son, our Saviour, to be a part of your Chosen People. So we give thanks for all who have gone before us especially for those named ‘Righteous among the Gentiles’, who stood out against the persecution of your first children, our elder brothers and sisters, and inspire us to stand against all such persecutions.

Let us surround our worship and our community with stillness, stillness to remember all those who died in the Holocaust; those before or since whose lives were brought to an end by genocide, and those still suffering or dying. Amen  Churches Together in Britain and Ireland - Remembering Genocides

Our Father, forgive all our misdeeds and wipe away our sin, for you are great and compassionate; your mercy knows no bounds. Amen     Rabbi Lionel Blue

Father, in your love you have brought us from evil to good and from misery to happiness. Through your blessings give the courage of perseverance to those who have been called and justified in faith. Grant this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

May the Lord guide your hearts in the way of His love and fill you with Christ like patience; may He give you strength to walk in newness of life and to please Him in all things; may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen