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Learn about Holocaust Memorial Day

Observe Holocaust Memorial Day with this group art activity.

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You’ll need

  • A projector or screen if you plan to show a video case study
  • Supplies to create your chosen artwork

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity

  • Make sure that everyone involved is aware of the content that will be discussed today and there are quiet and safe spaces for participants to go to if they need a break.
  • Think about how you’ll run the event. We’ve included some suggestions, but it’s up to you how much you want to adapt them for your group. It’s a good idea to read through the information before you begin so you’re prepared.
  • Learn more about the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
  • Find out more about the Holocaust with BBC Bitesize.

Introduce Holocaust Memorial Day

  1. Gather everyone in a group. 
  2. Explain that a genocide is the attempt to kill or destroy national, ethnical, racial or religious groups. The Holocaust is the most infamous genocide in history. It came close to wiping out the entire Jewish population of Europe. 
  3. Tell everyone that each year on 27 January we mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The 27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Approximately 1 million Jewish people were murdered at Auschwitz. 
  4. Explain that Holocaust Memorial Day is a day to remember the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of people murdered under Nazi persecution of other groups and during more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur
  5. Genocide never just happens. There is always a set of circumstances which occur or which are created to build the climate in which genocide can take place. They begin with division, exclusion, prejudice and discrimination. The differences between people are not respected. Genocides are still happening around the world today, and it is up to all of us to stand up against prejudice in our society today, so we can make the world a safer place for everyone. Here in the UK, and around the world, millions of people face prejudice, discrimination and hostility simply because of their identity. Holocaust Memorial Day is a day of commemoration and action, when we challenge these attitudes and behaviours in order to build a better future together.
  6. Tell everyone that in this session you’re going to learn more about the experiences of people who were affected by genocides, such as the Holocaust. 
  7. Read the case studies together. We’ve shared stories not only from survivors of the Holocaust, but also those from recent and current genocides to provide context and perspective to the importance of observing the day. There’s also an animated video that you may choose to show your group. You can also find more case studies from the Holocaust Memorial Trust.

Vesel and Fatima Veseli and their four children were a Muslim family from Albania. They lived in a small village in the mountains.

One of their sons was called Refik. When he was 17 his parents sent him to the capital city, Tirana, to learn to be a photographer. At the same time a war was happening across Europe called World War Two.

One day a new man came to work in the photography shop with Refik. His name was Moshe Mandil, and he was Jewish. He had come to Tirana with his family from another country in Europe called Yugoslavia.

Moshe had to leave his home because his country was attacked by German soldiers. Germany was led by the Nazi Party. They wanted to get kill all the Jewish people in Europe.

One year after Moshe arrived, Germany took control of Albania, and lots of Nazi soldiers came to Tirana looking for Jewish people. The Nazis knew there were only 200 Jewish people living in Albania. However, 1,000 more Jewish people, including the Mandil family, had secretly gone there to find safety.

Refik realised his new friend was in trouble. He went home and asked his parents if the Mandil family could hide with them in the village. Straight away they said yes.

Vesel came to get the Mandil family with some donkeys. They didn’t want to be caught by the soldiers, so they travelled on the donkeys at night, and hid in caves during the day. Finally they arrived in the village.

A little while later, Refik’s brother Xhemal (pronounced jeh-mahl) brought another Jewish family who also needed to hide. Hiding two families was difficult, but the Veselis said yes again. None of their neighbours knew that the Jewish families were there.

In 1944 there was a battle in the village between some Albanians and the Nazi soldiers. The Albanians won, and the soldiers left the village. The Mandil family were so happy!

They left the house for the first time in a year, and went to the town square. The neighbours were shocked, asking who these people were. Moshe said proudly: ‘We are Jews!’

But the Nazis attacked the village again, and all the Jews had to hide once more. That night the soldiers went from door to door, searching for people.

Both Jewish families hid in the Veseli’s house with the lights off, and they all stayed silent in the dark. The Nazis thought the house was empty and didn’t search it. They were safe.

Everyone hiding in the house survived the war, thanks to the Veselis and their neighbours. The Mandils went back to Yugoslavia, and Refik went with them to keep training in photography. The Veseli and Mandil families were friends for the rest of their lives, and the Veseli family received a special award for helping the Jewish families.

The Nazis tried to kill all the Jewish people in Europe. This is known as the Holocaust. By the end of the war, the Nazis had killed six million Jews. Many Jews who went to Albania were saved by Albanian people. Because of their Muslim faith, they had the strong belief that it was the right thing to do.

Vesel and Fatima Veseli and their four children were a Muslim family living in the mountainous regions of Albania, in a village called Kruja, during World War Two.

Albania is a predominantly Muslim country, It was one of the first countries to be invaded during World War Two by Germany’s ally, Italy, in 1939. Italy occupied the country until 1943, when Germany invaded. These occupations were resisted by Communist movements, who formed partisan groups to attempt to liberate the country.

In 1942 the Nazis held the Wansee Conference, at which they planned the logistics of what they called ‘The Final Solution’ – the genocide of Europe’s Jews. At this meeting, lists were drawn up of how many Jews lived in each country in Europe. 200 Jews were recorded in Albania – from a total population of nearly two million.

However, the Nazis were not aware that more than 1,000 Jews had fled to Albania from surrounding countries, in their attempt to emigrate out of Europe and away from danger. Amongst these Jewish refugees were Moshe and Gabriela Mandil and their young children, Gavra and Irena. The Mandils had fled Yugoslavia when the Germans invaded in April 1941, and were in Albania’s capital city, Tirana, by 1942.

In Yugoslavia, Moshe had owned a successful photography shop. When he arrived in Tirana, he contacted one of his former apprentices, Neshad Prizerini, who ran a photography store in the city. Neshad immediately offered Moshe work, and a place to stay for the whole family. Also working in the shop was apprentice, 17-year-old Refik Veseli. He had been sent by his parents to learn the photographic trade.

In 1943, after a year of working together, Refik realised the Mandils were in trouble. Increasing numbers of German troops were arriving in Albania, and the danger for the Jews living there was increasing. Refik suggested that the family move to his parents’ home in the mountains, where they could hide. He travelled home and had a meeting with his parents and siblings.

‘The subject of discussion wasn’t whether to save the Jewish Mandil family, but how. How to move them and how to save them,’ said Gavra Mandil.

Refik’s father Vesel came to Tirana with some donkeys and picked up the Mandil family. He told them they would travel on the donkeys to Kruja, but for safety they were only going to travel at night, avoiding main roads and busy areas. The journey took several nights, travelling over hazardous rocky terrain. During the days they hid in caves to avoid the German military.

When they arrived in Kruja, Moshe and Gabriela were hidden by the Veselis in a room above the barn, without their children. A large group of children lived in the village, from local families, and the children of hired help. The Veselis dressed the Mandil children as Muslim villagers which meant they could join this group and move freely around the village, without being questioned.

Shortly after the Mandil family’s arrival, Refik’s brother Xhemal (pronounced jeh-mahl) brought another Jewish family who needed somewhere to hide – Ruzhica and Yosef Ben Yosef, and Yosef’s sister Finica. Hiding two families was a big undertaking, but the Veseli family didn’t question their duty to do their best to offer protection. None of the neighbours in Kruja were aware that the Veseli family were hiding Jews in their home.

In November 1944, there was a battle in Kruja between the partisans and the German troops, which ended with Kruja being liberated from German control. Moshe and Gabriela Mandil were so happy: they believed the danger was over. They left the house for the first time in over a year, and went down to the town square with the Veseli family. Their neighbours were shocked, asking who these people were. Moshe proudly proclaimed: ‘We are Jews!’ Vesel and Fatima were congratulated by their neighbours for saving the Mandil family.

But the war was not over. The Germans attacked the village again, and all the Jews went back into hiding. Kruja was recaptured by the Germans, and the Jewish families feared that they would be found or given up by one of the neighbours. Moshe and Gabriela told their children to leave the house and go and hide. That night the German soldiers went from door to door, searching for partisan rebels.

When the children returned to the Veseli house 24 hours later, to their surprise they found their parents still there, exactly as they had left them. The Veselis had hidden inside with both Jewish families, and they all stayed completely silent in the dark. Because the house had been damaged by bombs, the Germans thought it was abandoned and didn’t search it. None of the villagers gave up the Jewish families to the soldiers, even though they could have benefitted from cooperating with the Nazi soldiers.

Many Jews who made their way to Albania were welcomed and sheltered by families in this way. The Albanian population were so effective in their efforts that there were only two reported cases of Jews in Albania being deported by the Nazis.

In the Muslim holy book, the Quran, it says: ‘Whoever saves one life, saves all of mankind.’ The Albanians’ refusal to comply with the Nazi’s genocidal policies was grounded in besa, a code of national honour, emerging from strong Muslim and ethical beliefs. Besa literally means ‘to keep the promise’.

Both families that the Veselis hid survived the war, thanks to the courage and generosity of the Veselis and their neighbours. The Mandils moved back to Yugoslavia, and Refik was invited to live with them to continue his photography training. The Veseli and Mandil families remained in contact for the rest of their lives. In 1987, Gavra Mandil wrote to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel. The Veseli family were named as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ – a prestigious award for non-Jewish people who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Faiza was born in 1961 in Sudan, a country in northeast Africa. Her family lived in a community where everyone loved and supported each other. At night there was no electricity, so the whole village would sit together and tell stories. It made Faiza feel very happy.

When she was 20, Faiza moved to the big capital city, Khartoum. She went to university, became a lawyer, and got married. Faiza and her husband had four children.

In 2003, the government started attacking people in a place called Darfur, in the west of Sudan. They were attacking them because of the colour of their skin and who they were. Lots of Faiza’s mother’s family lived in Darfur, and many of them were killed.

Faiza wanted to be able to help the women who survived these attacks. She visited where they were living and went back to university to find ways to make sure this never happened again.

Other countries noticed what the government in Sudan was doing, and how wrong it was. The Sudanese government tried to say that it was all lies. They tried to stop people like Faiza, who knew what had been happening.

Soldiers started following Faiza around. They waited outside her house and office and threatened her. She was afraid but wanted to keep working.

One day, a soldier showed Faiza a picture of her daughter, and threatened to hurt her. Faiza realised she had to leave the country – her children were in danger.

In 2007, Faiza took her four children out of their home in the middle of the night. They took just one small bag with them. They got on a plane to the UK. Faiza’s husband stayed behind to make it look like they were going on a short trip. They couldn’t even tell anyone they were going. Faiza didn’t see her husband again for four years.

When they got to the UK, Faiza and her children were asylum seekers. This made life very hard. They had to move house all the time. Sometimes there was no heating, even in the middle of winter. Faiza was used to having lots of friends and family around, but now she had to look after her children all by herself. She knew that she could be asked to leave the country at any time.

Because Faiza was an asylum seeker, she wasn’t allowed to work, so she decided to volunteer. She worked with charities helping other people like her, who had come to the UK to escape bad things in their home countries. She campaigned against hate crime and worked with community groups.

Finally, two years later, Faiza and her children were told they had permission to stay in the UK.

In 2017, Faiza was given an award because of all the good work she has done.

Faiza has not been able return home to Sudan, because it was still not safe for her.

Faiza is very grateful to have found safety in the UK, but she misses a lot of things from her home. She misses the sunshine, and her friends and family. She had plans for her life and wasn’t able to do them because of what happened. She hopes one day she will be able to go back home safely.

Faiza was a lawyer in Sudan, supporting victims of the genocide in Darfur. In 2007 the Sudanese government targeted Faiza and her children. They were forced to leave their family and community and seek asylum in the UK. Faiza’s name and image have been changed to protect her identity.

Faiza was born in 1961 in Kosti, a small city in Sudan – a country in northeast Africa. The youngest of four children, she had a very happy childhood, with caring and supportive parents. They lived in a very close-knit community, where everyone loved and supported each other. It was a quiet and simple life. ‘At night, there was no electricity, so the whole village would gather together and share stories. It made you feel happy all of the time,’ Faiza said.

In 1981, Faiza moved to the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, to study law at university. She continued to live in the city while working as a lawyer. She got married and had four children

In 2003, the Sudanese government began genocidal campaigns against black African farming communities in Darfur, a region in western Sudan.

Faiza lost many family members, including most of her mother’s family, when whole villages were burnt to the ground and civilians murdered. Faiza started working with women who had been victims of sexual violence, whose villages had been burned and relatives killed.

She wanted to help the women, so went back to university to research how rape was being used as a weapon in Darfur. Faiza had the respect and support of her family and community, who were all proud of her accomplishments.

When the international media began highlighting the genocide in Darfur, the regime became more aggressive, silencing anyone who knew what was happening in an attempt to stop the international outcry. Lawyers and researchers were amongst those targeted. Faiza, who regularly travelled to the displaced persons camps in Darfur to help the women there, was targeted and harassed. She has painful memories of this time – of being threatened and physically abused.

Every day when she left her house, she saw the security forces waiting for her. She was told she could not continue her research at the university. One day, members of a government militia came to Faiza’s office. They showed photographs they had taken of Faiza’s daughter with her friends and threatened to harm her. Faiza said: ‘I needed to protect my children – we made the hardest decision of my life and decided to leave the country.’

In 2007, Faiza and her four children fled their home in the night and boarded a flight to the UK using an old visa. Fearing that if they travelled together it would raise suspicion, Faiza and her husband reluctantly decided that she had to make the journey with the children and he would follow later. It was four years until they would see him again.

Faiza and her children travelled with just one small bag, to avoid suspicion. They could not tell any of their family or friends they were leaving – something which was particularly painful for Faiza. ‘I left everything there,’ she said. ‘I left my house, I left my office, my clients, my friends, my relatives, the people I used to help.

Everybody was asking: “Where did she go, what happened?”’

When they arrived in the UK, life was extremely difficult for Faiza and her children as they began the process of claiming asylum. They lived in Liverpool at first, then Bolton. They were constantly moved between different temporary accommodations and were not able to establish a new home.

In one of the houses, they had no heating throughout winter. When she went to the housing officer, he told her ‘you can’t complain, this is not your home’. Communication with her family in Sudan was very difficult. After having had the support of her husband and family in Sudan, Faiza spent four years raising her children alone.

‘I came to England with my children and nothing but the heart of a mother, full of fear. Everything here is different and cold. I miss the sun, the people and the streets. I lost my safety and security. I can’t go back because of the gloom which covers my country. The government suppresses and rapes the women and denies their rights, kills the opposition and jails every honourable person who stands up to them.’

It took two years for Faiza and her children to be granted asylum, despite support from her MP. During this time, she had to travel for hours every week to report to an officer. She says she felt like a criminal, as she could have been detained at any time without notice.

‘It was a very, very difficult time for me and my children. The process was so hard for someone like me, coming from a very quiet and peaceful life’.

Initially, Faiza was not permitted to find work whilst she sought asylum and she has struggled to find work since, due to the challenging language barrier. Despite this, Faiza has dedicated a huge amount of time to volunteering in her community.

Before being granted asylum herself, Faiza volunteered to support other refugees arriving in the UK. She has since worked on many voluntary projects, including establishing and supporting community groups, campaigning against hate crime, and raising awareness about FGM (female genital mutilation). In 2017 she was awarded an Inspire Women Award in recognition of her community work.

Faiza is still unable to return to Sudan for fear of being persecuted. In 2017, a friend of Faiza’s went to Sudan and took part in a peaceful demonstration. Despite having a UK passport, she was imprisoned for three months.

Faiza still feels she has not been able to fully establish a new home in the UK. The culture, climate and language are very different, and she has had to adjust from living in a supportive, loving community in Sudan to a more solitary life. ‘I still feel I don’t belong here. This was not what I expected or what I planned for my family or my children. If I had the choice I would still live at home with my family. I would still live the same life I lived’.

Faiza now lives in London, where she is continuing her voluntary work and supporting her children through school and university. One day, she hopes that she will be able to return home to Sudan.


The Memorial Flame

  1. The logo for Holocaust Memorial Day is a purple Memorial Flame. Ask everyone to think about the significance of a flame when showing commemoration and solidarity with victims of genocides both past and present. A flame is widely accepted as a symbol of eternal life.
  2. When you’re ready, tell everyone you’re going to hold a moment of reflection. You could encourage participants to share their own thoughts or reflections, however they feel comfortable.
  3. Now, tell everyone you’re going to make your own Memorial Flame to remember those who endured genocide, to honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.
  4. Everyone should think about designing and creating their own unique Memorial Flame to form a display. This could be done as individuals, in small groups or as a whole group. Things to consider include:
  • Where will it go? Decide whether the flame will be displayed at your meeting place, in a public space, or in everyone’s homes.
  • Do you need to get permission?
  • Should you make a wall display or fill a larger exhibition space?
  • What kind of artwork can you include? Could you have sculptures and 3D artworks? Could it be drawings, hand or finger paintings, collages, giving each participant a section of the image of the flame to decorate individually, before putting them together to reveal the finished piece, a salt dough sculpture, poems, writing or positive words?
  • Who will come to see the display?
  • Can an audience interact with it? For example, writing their own reflections, messages or pledges.
  • What information needs to go with the artworks? You should explain that the display is for Holocaust Memorial Day, and share the stories you have been inspired by. You can order ‘booklets about Holocaust Memorial Day.

Make a Memorial Flame

  1. When you’re ready, use craft materials to make the flame(s).
  2. People should be encouraged to think of something – a detail or message – that they want to reflect in the artwork, using the stories you’ve heard as inspiration. This could be particular details from a person’s testimony or life story (such as an activity they enjoyed before the Holocaust or genocide, or something that gave them hope); names of rescuers, survivors or people who were murdered; details from the history of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution or genocides; or ideas inspired by poems written in response to genocides

Ivor Perl – survivor of the Holocaust

To watch in full screen, double click the video


This activity was about helping your community and being a citizen by sharing learning about Holocaust Memorial Day with other people and feeling connected to others around the world. How did you feel when you heard the stories of people who had been affected by genocide? Why is it important that we keep the Memorial Flame burning and do not forget these stories? Creating the display will help to tell others what you have learned. How else could you tell others?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Glue and solvents

Always supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions that could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

You can be as ambitious as you like with the display you create, and make it over several sessions if needed. You could use the reflection part of this activity to create more artworks – such as poems or written reflections, which could be shared with the group.

The topics and stories shared in this session may affect people personally. Provide a quiet and safe space that participants are welcome to go to if they need to at any point. Make sure participants are aware of the topics being discussed before the start of the session.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

People worldwide will be observing Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January and thinking about how they can take action. Consider emailing the details of your actions to, or adding your activity to the HMDT map at HMD's website.