Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects to the victims of genocide as Dorchester marked Holocaust Memorial Day.

A moving and solemn event, organised by the South West Dorset Multinational Network (SWDMN) and Dorchester Town Council, was well attended at the Dorchester Corn Exchange yesterday.

Rachelle Smith, secretary of SWDMN, said: “It’s very important because its the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 25th anniversary of the horrors of Bosnia. We are determined that these kind of things don’t happen again.

“The theme of this year’s event is ‘Stand Together’ and we want to encourage all people to stand together against all kinds of discrimination like racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

Mona Elkotory, chairman of the SWDMN, said: “Today we remember the millions of Jews murdered during the holocaust.

“Also, we should not forget other small minorities that suffered at the hands of the Nazis. If we are not prepared to stand together to stop genocide happening again we have all failed.”

The programme included singing by Viva Choir, poetry read by students of Sunninghill Preparatory School and a presentation from students of The Thomas Hardye School about the Bosnian genocide.

Gillian Walnes Perry, co-founder of the Anne Frank Trust UK, said: “It’s very close to my heart to be back in Dorset because that’s where the Anne Frank Trust started.

“We are here today standing together to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. However, we must reflect that since 1939, 55 million civilians have perished in 89 major genocides around the world.

Mayor of Dorchester, Cllr Richard Biggs, lit the first candle in a service following the presentation.

He said: “It’s a cliche but people mustn’t forget.

“What is disturbing is that it’s still going on and people still don’t learn the lessons.

“It’s important that we put aside a short period every year to remember those who died and suffered in the holocaust to think about about what we can do to make sure these terrible things don’t happen again.”

The Weymouth Mayor, Cllr Graham Winter, also led a service around the Memorial Tree in Radipole Gardens yesterday linking into the National theme for 2020 – Stand Together and the 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This is an open air short service, all are welcome to attend.