At two free events, stories will be shared of a family’s life in occupied Poland and the County Durham men who took part in the liberation of Belsen concentration camp.

The events, organised by Durham County Council to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, will feature talks from Durham University professor, Marek Szablewski, and military researcher, Steve Shannon.

Professor Szablewski will take to the Gala Durham stage on Holocaust Memorial Day – Friday 27 January – to share the story of his family’s life in occupied Poland during the Second World War.

The physics lecturer’s father was a Polish resistance fighter, so his Jewish step-grandmother and aunt were hidden from the Nazis during the war.

Since being awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship in 2011, he has been researching his family history and the journey that brought his parents to Yorkshire.

Professor Szablewski’s talk starts at 10am and is expected to last around 1 hour and 45 minutes. The event will be supported by Belmont, Framwellgate and Durham Johnston schools which will provide music and performances. To book tickets visit

And from 6.30pm to 7.30pm on Thursday 26 January – the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day – military researcher Steve Shannon will deliver his online talk, ‘Never Again, Never’.

Hosted by The Story at Mount Oswald, Steve will tell the incredible story of the County Durham men who were involved in the liberation of Belsen Concentration Camp in April 1945.

Using the Durham Light Infantry archive and related collections, the talk draws on records that have only recently been catalogued, providing new insights into those tragic events.

The talk will take place live via Zoom – advance booking is essential via the Events section of the Durham Record Office website at

Cllr Alan Shield, Cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an annual day of commemoration on which people across the world remember the millions murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

“Each year more than 10,000 events take place in the UK on or around Holocaust Memorial Day and here in County Durham, we are honoured to have two speakers with very poignant stories to tell. This is the first time we’ve been able to host a public event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day since before the pandemic.

“It is essential that we continue to reflect on these harrowing events, which demonstrate what can happen when discrimination and prejudice take hold. It’s also a stark reminder of why it’s so important to promote tolerance and equality, and to work together to eradicate hate crime.

“Both of these events are free but you do need to book your tickets in advance so please act quickly if you’re interested in attending.”

Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland on 27 January 1945.

Durham County Hall will be lit purple on the evening and Durham Cathedral is also marking the day by hosting a display of artwork by St Leonard’s and Belmont schools to reflect the Holocaust Memorial Day theme for 2023, ‘Ordinary People’.

For further information about Holocaust Memorial Day events in County Durham visit

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