LAST Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day. January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and was chosen as the most symbolic day to remember the worst crimes against humanity in our recent history.

The commemoration begins with the Holocaust itself, the state-sponsored murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. Gipsies, political opponents, disabled people, lesbians and gay men was also targeted for extermination. It is still the most horrific and systematic example of genocide, but not, of course, the only one from the last or this century.

During my lifetime further genocides have taken place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and, most recently, Darfur. Even today there are reports of more tribal murders in Kenya.

Against this background Tony Blair, who was largely responsible for ensuring international intervention in Bosnia, established Holocaust Memorial Day and five years later the UN designated the day a time for remembrance around the world.

I remember that at first there was some scepticism about the purpose of the day, but already it seems to have become part of the calendar and there are a growing number of local, national and international events.

I was pleased to see Ealing Council commemorate the day by planting a tree outside the Town Hall in a short ceremony attended by the mayor, council leaders and many others. Steve Pound MP, Robert Evans MEP and I attended and observed a minute's silence. I also signed the book of remembrance at the House of Commons. Later in the year I am hoping to visit Auschwitz on one of the Holocaust Educational Trust's regular trips for schools across the country.

It is unfortunate that the memory - of even the most horrific events - fades, especially when we live in a peaceful, well-ordered and democratic society. The idea of the day is to keep the memory of those terrible acts alive and to explain to a new generation what mankind is capable of. It is only by doing this that we can be on our guard and prepared to intervene to stop the next tragedy occurring.