By Rachel Sanderson
MANCHESTER, England, (Reuters) - Politicians and genocide survivors called for tolerance at Britain's annual Holocaust Memorial Service on Sunday, looking back on a year marked by race riots and aggression towards asylum-seekers.
Ceremonies were also held in other European countries, notably Italy and the Netherlands, while Germans were due to hold a formal memorial ceremony on Monday.
More than 1,000 guests crowded into a concert hall in the northern English city of Manchester for a moving service of music, reading and discussion on what Britain can learn from the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides.
Holocaust survivors and representatives from Asian, Armenian, Roma gypsy, disabled and lesbian and gay communities joined political and religious leaders to speak about the "evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism".
"This service is not just about one group of people," Mohammed Rafiq, a Muslim from Manchester, said before the ceremony. "We have come here to learn about one another so we don't make the same mistakes again," he told Reuters.
In Germany, the day that marks the liberation of Auschwitz death camp where the Nazis killed more than one million people was observed with small memorial ceremonies in Berlin and Wiesbaden.
In Italy, 5,000 people gathered at the site of the country's only concentration camp in Risiera near the northern town of Trieste where, in September 1938, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini announced the introduction of race laws.
In England, the Manchester service was the climax of a day of events around the country set up to reflect Britain's commitment to oppose racism, victimisation and genocide, a Home Office (Interior Ministry) statement said.
Home Secretary David Blunkett, in Manchester with other political and religious leaders and members of the royal family, gave an address in which he said bigotry and prejudice still existed.
Britain's role in the Holocaust has been under scrutiny in past weeks, after David Cesarani, a government adviser for Holocaust Day and leading historian, said the country did not do enough to help European Jews escape the Holocaust.
Last year, differing views of the past caused an angry row between representatives of Armenian and Turkish communities at the inaugural Holocaust Memorial Service, held in London.
Armenians say more than two million of their people were killed between 1915 and 1922 by Ottoman Turks, while Turkey denies an act of genocide occurred.
A planned protest by Turks in Manchester over the inclusion of an Armenian folk song and reading in Sunday's service failed to materialise.