Minister Percy emphasised that “visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau help to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten, and it is why we should all do everything we can to ensure that Holocaust education is at the heart of the curriculum, in this country and across the world”.
Opening his speech, he said it is “a real privilege and honour” to respond to this debate because he “used to deliver Holocaust education to young people” as a secondary school history teacher, and “because of my own journey within Judaism, which has become so important to me over the past couple of years”.
The Communities Minister said that claiming that Hitler was a Zionist, and supporting Hamas or Hezbollah is anti-Semitic: “At an event in Parliament, it was wonderful to see Laurence Rees, who produced the documentary, ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’, so beautifully destroy the arguments of those who argue that Hitler was a Zionist and so on. There has been too much of that. It is ignorant and sinister and we should call it out for what it is: anti-Semitism. That also applies to attending a rally in support or holding a flag of Hamas or Hezbollah”.
Minister Percy spoke of how he was shocked that in a visit to Brussels, he found that young Jews were afraid to wear their kippot. He added: “Of course, sadly, that has happened on campuses here. Swastikas have appeared and meetings organised by Jewish societies have been violently disrupted. That is not acceptable and we cannot be silent about it”.
Thanking Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, for being the “driving force” behind the Government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism, Mr Percy praised the definition as “an important tool to help criminal justice agencies and other public bodies to understand how anti-Semitism manifests itself in the 21st century”.
Minister Percy emphasised that “We should be proud of what we have done in this country to tackle anti-Semitism and our work on the UK Holocaust memorial”.
The UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, spoke about his visit to Treblinka, the former Nazi death camp, and the worrying prevalence of Holocaust denial on social media.
Sir Eric said that the Government’s building of the new Holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Gardens will be a very important way in countering Holocaust denial and educating future generations about it, and that “it will be a lasting monument of which we can be immensely proud”.
CFI Officer Bob Blackman MP in his speech paid tribute to Holocaust survivor Gena Turgel, who lives in Mr Blackman’s Harrow East constituency, and Kitty Hart-Moxon.
Mr Blackman also spoke about his visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which he said “is seared into my consciousness”.
MP for Hendon Dr Matthew Offord spoke about his visits to Auschwitz in his speech and made reference to Elie Wiesel’s book ‘Night’, citing the quote “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”. He said: “That is why we continue to remember and to commemorate the holocaust”.
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