It happened in Auschwitz, in Sobibor and in Treblinka in Poland. It happened in Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau in Germany. In these extermination and concentration camps, more than 16 million people were killed during the Second World War.
Of these victims, six million were Jews (a number amounting to one-third of the Jews then alive around the world). Ten million were Ukrainian, Polish and Russian civilians and prisoners of war. Hundreds were killed because they were Socialists; others because they were gay. Many were starved to death. Some were tortured. Others were victims of medical "experiments".
Many more were hanged or shot. Thousands were executed in gas chambers. In one period from May to July in 1945, half a million Hungarian Jews were gassed.
All this was no accident but the deliberate intention of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers. Their plans were co-ordinated in January 1942 when a meeting of top Nazis in Wannsee (a suburb of Berlin) planned the murder of all Jews in Europe. After the end of the war in Europe, the Soviet Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. On the anniversary of that day, we remember all the communities who suffered as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution.
This year, people remember in particular the courage of those who liberated the camps and the rescuers who helped the survivors rebuild their lives.
The word "holocaust" comes from a Greek word meaning sacrifice by fire. In Israel it is known as "shoah" (catastrophe) and the main observance occurs at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Two minutes' silence is kept and all places of entertainment close that day.
The official British Holocaust Memorial Day site is at www.hmd.org.uk
Follow links to Education for pdf files that include a timeline, case studies, discussion guidelines and worksheets plus key stage 3 PSHE and RE lesson plans.
A Local Activities pack offers help in the organisation of memorial events.
It can be downloaded from the above site, or email: email@example.com or tel: 0845 838 1883.
A BBC site explains how the Nazis killed 1.5 million children in their pursuit of a "pure" Europe: www.bbc.co.ukreligion religionsfeaturesholocaustchildren.shtml