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International Holocaust Memorial Day

Volume 826: debated on Thursday 19 January 2023

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

My Lords, it is with respect and sombre reflection that I move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the register of interests, particularly those concerned with Holocaust remembrance and tackling anti-Semitism.

I start the debate in some sadness as, yesterday morning, a friend of many of us in this Chamber, Zigi Shipper, passed away, on his 93rd birthday. He survived the ghetto, concentration camps and the death march. He devoted the latter part of this life to telling his story. His Majesty the King had his portrait commissioned and hung in Buckingham Palace. Zigi guided the present Prince and Princess of Wales around Stutthof concentration camp. Whether he was greeting royalty or giving his testimony in the classroom, he was always the same old Zigi. He will be very much on my mind when I light my candle on Holocaust Memorial Day. I will particularly remember his motto: “Do not hate”. May his memory be a blessing.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is “Ordinary People”. I think all of us in this Chamber could imagine ourselves being victims of the Holocaust, but few of us could imagine ourselves being perpetrators of the Holocaust. Unless we understand that both victims and perpetrators were ordinary people who led ordinary lives, we run the risk ourselves of Holocaust distortion. The Holocaust turned ordinary people into monsters.

The Nazis had a powerful propaganda machine, which was deadly effective, but curiously, from small villages nestling in the Pyrenees to the impenetrable forests of Belarus, the Nazis never needed to explain to anyone what Jew hatred was. Nor would it have been possible to murder 6 million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Roma, people with a disability, homosexuals or political and religious dissidents without the active collaboration of others. Thankfully, there were of course many ordinary men and women willing to stand up to this hatred. Ordinary people often showed extraordinary bravery to save victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. But we delude ourselves if we think this is the norm.

Across Europe today, we see collaborators rehabilitated as national resistance leaders. History is being rinsed, and countries are recasting themselves as Nazi victims. As this decade progresses, the last survivors who witnessed the Holocaust as children will move from contemporary memory to the pages of history. We owe it to them and to ourselves to keep their memory, and that of their parents and grandparents, alive.

The destruction wrought by the Nazis and their collaborators was so great that, for hundreds of thousands of victims, the only reminder of their existence in this world is a very ordinary item of clothing: a shoe. Many of us are familiar with the piles of shoes at Auschwitz-Birkenau or at Holocaust museums worldwide. They are stark reminders of the fragile nature of life during the Holocaust. Shoes were described by the Polish poet, Moshe Szulsztein, as “the last witnesses”.

As a Minister, I presented to Auschwitz a cheque on behalf of the UK Government to restore some of these shoes. I witnessed the process. When you looked at the shoes carefully, you saw that they were not so different from the footwear that might be worn by Members in the Chamber today. These shoes were not bought to board cattle-trucks to travel to death camps; they were bought as expressions of optimism and of the future: maybe they were bought for a wedding, a promotion, the first day at school or a summer picnic. Within the shoes were often hidden objects: money, love letters and photographs of children and spouses.

The hardest thing to look at are the children’s shoes. I remember a small pair of shoes, where a carefully folded piece of paper was found in the heel. It was a maths test. Can you imagine how precious this piece of paper was to a child? It symbolised, despite the conditions, that there was still hope and the prospect of survival and a future. The tiny shoes of the youngsters of Auschwitz are a special symbol of the crimes perpetrated there. They are a reminder that, in many cases, they were the only witnesses to the murder of 232,000 children at that death camp.

The memories contained in shoes and other footwear remains important in remembering other genocides. In Rwanda, in the absence of DNA and dental records, shoes and clothing were used to identify the dead found in mass graves following the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. In Cambodia, piles of sandals are a reminder of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. In 2010, 16,000 pairs of shoes were put on display to mark the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, each pair representing a victim of Europe’s worst genocide since the Second World War. The memorial of shoes was a

“warning for all future U.N. employees never again just to stand by when genocide unfolds”—

an allusion to the failure of UN peacekeepers to protect the Srebrenica victims during the Bosnian war. Shoes worn by ordinary people; the final witness.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion. Today, we still see people who actively deny the historical reality of the Holocaust and seek to minimise the extent of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people by the Nazis and their collaborators. They cast doubt on the existence of the gas chambers and the mass shootings, and on deliberate working to death and starvation being used as a tool of government policy. The simple goal of Holocaust denial is to recast history to erase the legacy and reality of the mass murder of Jewish people.

Holocaust distortion is more mainstream and just as pernicious. It casts doubts. It assigns different descriptions to places, with death camps redesignated as transit camps. Contemporary events are compared to the Holocaust. Collaborators of the Nazis are wiped out of national memory. Holocaust distortion can be found at all levels of society and is far from a fringe phenomenon—from facts being twisted on the internet to opportunistic statements by politicians, misleading exhibitions at museums and, most recently, comparing measures to combat Covid-19 or climate change to the Holocaust.

A few years ago, I visited Treblinka, a death camp not unlike Auschwitz. People were murdered there within a couple of hours of arriving. I recall putting on social media, as you do, how moving it was. Within minutes, I was swamped by people saying, “Nobody died at Treblinka; it was a transit camp. Maybe the odd person died of flu, but that was all.” I have no idea whether those people believed that or not.

We are obviously concerned about the growth in the number of anti-Semitic incidents being reported on our university campuses. Our universities must be welcoming and inclusive environments for all students. I welcome the Tuck report into anti-Semitism, published last Thursday. This important report includes details of some quite shocking episodes and illustrates how prevalent anti-Semitism is within the ranks of the National Union of Students. The NUS will have to work hard to ensure that it represents all students in future. This was further underlined by today’s report from the Community Security Trust, which saw a 22% rise in anti-Semitic incidents on campus in the last two years.

The Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine have further fuelled the soaring levels of online anti-Semitism. Understanding the ways in which hate permeates the online space is not easy. The Online Safety Bill, which arrived here yesterday, will give this House an opportunity to address that hatred.

Close to 80 years since the Holocaust, there are still people waiting for justice and recognition of their property that was stolen by the Nazis. It has been 13 years since 47 countries signed the Terezin Declaration in June 2009. There has been progress: 13 countries in Europe have adopted legislation that either addresses or partially addresses heirless and unclaimed property from the Holocaust era. However, sadly, only Serbia has put together legislation on heirless and unclaimed property. Poland, the anvil of the Holocaust, is the only democracy refusing to address the concerns of dispossessed Holocaust survivors and their heirs. Time is running out; it has a moral obligation to ensure that Holocaust survivors and their families receive justice.

I co-chair with Ed Balls the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation. Our role is to oversee the British promise to remember and to build a striking and prominent new national memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens. I am most encouraged by the pledges from the Government and the Official Opposition to introduce a Bill to facilitate the memorial’s construction. It is possible that your Lordships will have an opportunity to debate the merits of its location at greater length than in this brief debate.

We are clear that the learning centre will adopt a warts and all approach. Our narrative will be balanced, addressing the complexities of Britain’s response to the Holocaust, avoiding simplistic judgments and encouraging visitors to reflect critically on whether more could have been done by both policymakers and society. We are determined to face history honestly. I am conscious that 2025 will be the 80th anniversary of the Holocaust, and that every day which passes means that fewer Holocaust survivors will be around to see that we honour our pledge.

Finally, I thank Olivia Marks-Woldman, the CEO of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, for her marvellous work in delivering the UK’s national Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony and thousands of local activities. I also pay tribute to Karen Pollock, the CEO of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which is the driving force behind Lessons from Auschwitz. Professor Stuart Foster and Associate Professor Ruth-Anne Lenga from the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education have ensured that the UK leads the way in teaching and learning about the Holocaust. Many other organisations provide help in understanding the Holocaust, and I thank them.

The Holocaust and subsequent genocides show that ordinary people have choices. It is up to all of us to ensure that the choices that we make today and tomorrow ensure that our statement of “Never again” is not a single empty pledge.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for securing this historic debate and for all his other formidable work. This memorial day is one which binds us all, irrespective of background, but I hope noble Lords will offer their forbearance because, for me, it is a deeply personal matter. As my family name, Kestenbaum, indicates, home for us until the crimes began in the mid-20th century was Germany. Because the enormity of what followed often defies comprehension, I request that this Chamber bears witness today to one elderly victim and hears her story.

I speak of Dina Eisenman, my great-great-grandmother, who was killed in Bergen-Belsen on 19 February 1944 at the age of 80. Dina and most of my maternal family were living in Frankfurt at the time of Kristallnacht. She fled for her life to Holland and settled in The Hague, where we had family, but the German invasion in May 1940 changed everything again. Anti-Semitic laws were soon followed by the round-up and deportation of Holland’s Jews.

Dina was deported to Westerbork in early 1943—the transit station from which trains left for the death camps. The cattle-trucks deporting Jews to their slaughter left every Tuesday morning. This made Mondays equally traumatic, for every Monday evening a list was read out in the Westerbork barracks of those to be deported the next day. On the evening of Monday 15 February 1944, the name of my great-great-grandmother Dina Eisenman was read out. At the time, she was an 80 year-old, sick, weak woman who could be moved only on a stretcher, yet she was mercilessly deported in a cattle-truck to Bergen-Belsen.

Dina Eisenman, an 80 year-old grandmother, was dead within a week of arriving at Bergen-Belsen. Her death at the hands of the Nazis was not the end of our family tragedy. Two of her children and two of her children-in-law were murdered. Ten of her grandchildren were murdered too, the youngest of whom—Lottie, who was 16, and Herbert, who was nine—were gassed to death in Auschwitz. In total, 26 members of my extended family were among the millions of victims of humanity’s greatest ever state-sponsored crime. Today we bear witness to that crime.

In the spirit of remembrance, I will share a poignant postscript. Last October, the March of the Living organised a ceremony on the site of the camp to mark the 75th anniversary of Bergen-Belsen’s liberation by British forces. At the ceremony, the British Army was represented by Colonel Dickie Winchester, of the Royal Artillery, and Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Ledger, of the very same armoured regiment which was among the camp’s liberators, who laid a wreath. A candle was also lit in memory of the victims of Bergen-Belsen by Dina Eisenman’s great-great-great-grandson, Yoav Kestenbaum, my son.

At the ceremony that afternoon were several Holocaust survivors. In talking to them, it was clear to me that their deepest concern today is that the passage of time may leave the field of memory open to the deniers and distorters of the Holocaust, as the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, referred to. Recent research has revealed that several online platforms continue to host a significant number of posts denying the Holocaust or distorting its crimes, so today is a timely moment respectfully to ask the Minister what further legislative measures are being taken to hold online platforms accountable for the Holocaust denial content that they host, particularly if we cannot rely on their voluntary self-policing.

It was the late Lord Sacks who said:

“To be a Jew is to carry the burden of memory without letting it rob us of hope”.

I am sure he would have agreed that this imperative now falls on us all, irrespective of background. Indeed, His Majesty the King himself has inspired us with his personal commitment to Holocaust remembrance. In light of the passing of the survivors and the dangers of Holocaust denial, it falls to this Chamber, many like it, and indeed the entire country to carry that burden of memory and, in doing so, to light a candle of hope.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a patron of the Traveller movement. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for securing this important debate today and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Library and many others for their excellent and helpful briefings. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kestenbaum, who described the moving experience of his own family.

This year’s theme of ordinary people who let genocide happen is extremely important for all of us at a time when we hear and see rises in anti-Semitism and other discrimination. In the brief time available, I want to make some links with things that are happening today but started in the early 1930s.

Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous comment about remaining silent even in the face of evidence begins:

“First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist …

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew”,

and ends:

“Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out”.

Most people do not understand that he spoke from his own experience: he was a pro-Nazi supporter in the very early 1930s. He did not support the Jewish community at all, and he recognised that in his later life.

For me, what happened to the Roma and Gypsy community in the 1930s was appalling. The Porajmos, or the Devouring, started in 1933 with prejudice and discrimination. Tens of thousands of Romani men, women and children across Germany and occupied Europe were first badly treated, and then killed. The human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe has reported this year on compelling testimony she heard about discrimination, a lack of publicly provided sites for our Traveller community and the barriers that people in the GRT community face in developing sites. In particular, she commented on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and how it is much harder for our Traveller community to live their way of life.

In that same visit in the middle of 2022, she also commented on addressing the increasingly toxic discourse against trans people. That, too, is how genocide started against the LGBT—particularly the “T”—community in May 1933, when the Nazis raided and looted the Institute for Sexual Science. Some employees just disappeared and were assumed to have been murdered; their archives and research were burned. During the Holocaust, transgender people were deported to concentration camps, and many did not survive.

Much more recently, in this last year there has been a chilling echo of what happened to Polish children in the 1930s after Germany invaded Poland, where they were sent to German families and to SS home schools if they were thought to be of previous Germanic descent. This year, in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, we have seen Ukrainian children being removed and sent to Russia and “adopted” by Russian families. That is appalling.

If Martin Niemöller were alive today, he would be asking us to look at and think carefully about all we see and do. It is not just about the horrific end of lives; it is about the slow and gradual movement towards othering particular communities and feeling that they are not part of us and that this is acceptable. He said:

“We preferred to keep silent. We are … not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in … 1933 or 1934 … 14,000 Protestant pastors”

had intervened? He believed that millions of lives would have been saved. We all need to heed that challenge and speak up.

Can I say at this point that this is a time-limited debate? If people exceed the limit consistently, there will be very little time for the Minister to respond. This is a very difficult debate for me to intervene on, but I just make that reminder.

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. Like so many others, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for this Motion. It provides an opportunity not only to hear such moving contributions but to express from these Benches our deep appreciation of the history and values that Christians and Jews have in common, as well as the importance we attach to our ongoing dialogue, understanding and attempts to work together for the common good. Our central Christian act of worship, the Eucharist, originated in Christ’s participation in the Jewish ceremony of Passover. We note the huge contribution that Jewish people have made to British society through the centuries, which is a great expression of the significance of faith in public life.

However, the Christian Church has not always behaved in ways that have honoured Jews—in fact, quite the opposite, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury made clear in a statement just last week. This is something we now deeply regret. As we remember today all those who suffered and died in the Holocaust, we are glad to confirm our absolute commitment to remembering those victims, opposing anti-Semitism, and helping to educate people about the Holocaust and against anti-Semitic hate crimes, which are still not entirely absent from our culture. Indeed, the Church of England’s vision for education has at its heart a theme of community and living well together. It is that for which we and our Jewish colleagues work in our shared endeavour to build community relationships which enable the people of this country to flourish, mindful of the Prayers offered each day in your Lordships’ House, for the

“uniting and knitting together of the hearts of all persons and estates within the”


“in true Christian Love and Charity one towards another”.

My Lords, it is an honour to follow the right reverend Prelate, and I appreciate his words. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Pickles for securing this important debate. Those who have visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem will have walked along what is known as the avenue of the righteous, where a tree is planted and nurtured in honour of those non-Jews who saved and protected Jews during the Holocaust, putting themselves and their families in mortal danger. For the work and dedication my noble friend has undertaken over so many years across the globe—on community cohesion, combating anti-Semitism, championing Holocaust education and ensuring a fitting memorial and education centre is established next door—a mere “thank you” is not remotely adequate. If I could create and establish a “Pickles Plaza”, I would.

On 19 January 1943, precisely 80 years ago to this very day, 24-year-old Mordechai Anielewicz—an ordinary person who became extraordinary—the leader of the Jewish Fighting Organisation in the Warsaw ghetto, was fighting the Nazi oppressors who had just begun the process of deporting the last remaining Jews of the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka. They fought bravely and tirelessly for several weeks, before they were ultimately overcome by the Nazis.

In December 1943, the kibbutz Yad Mordechai in southern Israel, close to the Gaza border, was established in Mordechai Anielewicz’s honour. In the centre of that kibbutz today, a striking and beautiful statue of Mordechai serves as a memorial to the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. The kibbutz has a museum dedicated to the Jewish resistance in Europe, including an exhibit on the Warsaw ghetto uprising. It seems deeply appropriate that, today, the modern kibbutz Yad Mordechai is known for its production of honey, jam and olive oil—a perfect tribute to the young, brave leader.

I join the noble Lord, Lord Kestenbaum, in quoting the late Lord Sacks. He wrote this in his book, The Dignity of Difference:

“The Holocaust was an attempt to destroy the dignity of the Jewish people. It failed. Those who suffered and died in the concentration camps, ghettos and death camps left a legacy of human dignity and moral greatness that continues to inspire and uplift the Jewish people and all humanity.”

Today, we should not focus only on the persecution of those who were murdered in the Holocaust. We should be emboldened by Lord Sacks’ words and be uplifted by the brave and resilient actions of those such as Mordechai Anielewicz. As we approach Holocaust Memorial Day, in memory of Mordechai and all victims of the Holocaust, let us pledge to do our part and build a better future for all while keeping in mind the words of Mordechai himself, who said this just before his death in April 1943, at the tender age of 24:

“Only few will persevere. The rest will sooner or later be killed … The most important thing is: my life’s dream has been fulfilled. I have lived to see Jewish self-defence in the Warsaw Ghetto in all its splendour and glory.”

My Lords, I am not sure how to follow the noble Lord, Lord Polak. As ever, his contribution was thoughtful and considered; I am grateful to follow it. Before I start, I refer the House to my register of interests, specifically that I am a trustee of the Antisemitism Policy Trust and a director of Hope not Hate.

This is, I believe, the first time noble Lords have had a debate to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The fact that it is happening today is a testament to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, who has done so much in the field of Holocaust commemoration. I thank him for his ongoing commitment and, of course, for securing today’s debate.

I wish that this debate could be solely one of reflection and commemoration; that we could stand here today and consider the issues of anti-Jewish hate and fascist ideology as consigned to the dustbin of history; and that the bulk of today’s debate could be historical comment, highlighting the horrors experienced by the victims and the inspirational acts of the survivors, whose testimony has changed the world, and celebrating those who worked against their own Governments to protect and hide their fellow citizens.

This debate should be a celebration of the life of Zigi Shipper, an Auschwitz survivor who sadly passed away yesterday. It should be an opportunity for us to honour the work of my noble friend Lord Dubs, who has used his own story to inspire so many others. We should be sharing the testimony of Janine Webber, a Holocaust survivor whom many of us were privileged to hear last week at the Holocaust Educational Trust. We should be discussing these amazing people and many others whose names we will learn in today’s debate.

I wish that today’s debate was anchored in the past and that anti-Semitism was not a contemporary matter that required noble Lords’ attention—but I am afraid it is. The Holocaust should have been a unique moment in our global history. It should have shaken the world to its core. For many of us in this place today, I am sure that that is exactly what it has done. Holocaust Memorial Day provides us all with a moment of reflection to remind us of where political rhetoric and hate can lead. It gives us an opportunity to challenge our own behaviour and asks us to recommit to challenging racism, hate and bigotry everywhere we see them.

That brings me to the world we live in today. Noble Lords have already touched on the scourge of anti-Jewish hate that seems far too prevalent in modern society. In recent weeks, we have seen the National Union of Students forced to accept that its culture is hostile to Jewish students. We have seen numerous stories about the antics of Kayne West and his attacks on the Jewish community. It is 2023 and this ancient hatred is in the newspapers nearly every day.

This morning, CST, the Community Security Trust, published a new report detailing anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses across the UK. The past two years have seen a 22% increase in anti-Jewish hate incidents. There have been 150 verified and reported anti-Semitic incidents on British campuses in the past two years. For context, there are only 271,000 Jews in the UK of all ages, so this is a terrifying level of hate. Our universities are meant to be cathedrals—or should I say synagogues—of learning and enlightenment. You would hope that, if there was one place where vile racism and anti-Jewish hatred were challenged and beaten, it would be in our educational establishments. This is clearly not the case. I want to put on the record my heartfelt thanks to Mark Gardner and his team at CST, who work tirelessly to keep the Jewish community safe both on campus and in wider society.

I am aware that time is short in this debate but it would be remiss of me not to recognise the amazing work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Educational Trust, which ensure that the legacy of this evil chapter of our history is remembered every day, not just on 27 January. This is a vital debate and I am grateful that we are having it, but I fear that our work in challenging anti-Jewish hate is far from over.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Pickles, as others have done, on securing this important debate. I also thank our Government for the tremendous support they have provided to Holocaust remembrance.

It is increasingly important to remember that terrible, dark time. My mother, born in Berlin, and my father, born in Vienna, fled to the UK in the 1930s but most of our families were not so lucky. In preparing for today’s debate, I spoke to my cousin Ellen, who was on the Kindertransport aged eight. She still remembers the taunts of Jew hatred before leaving Berlin, the anti-Semitism and the devastation of Kristallnacht. She wanted me to say on her behalf how grateful she is that England gave her the opportunity to live and how proud she has always been of her British nationality.

The main message she feels we need to learn is the importance of tolerance and respect for all other people, not forcing our own views on others—indeed, Jews have never been a proselytising nation—or looking at people with preconceived ideas about race, religion or colour. Will we learn the lessons of history or are we in danger of repeating them? We must not be complacent. Hatred and anti-Semitism have not disappeared, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, just said in her excellent remarks.

Despite the horrific events of the Holocaust, which we remember today, I believe that there are still memories of the anti-Semitic acts that happened in Europe in the 1930s. For example, just this week, anti-Semitic taunts were used against a Jewish football supporter and her friends in a London pub that was showing the Arsenal v Spurs match. When she asked fellow Arsenal supporters not to use the word Yid, which was one of the Blackshirt Nazi taunts against Jews, she was told to take off her Arsenal shirt and 30 people shouted this at her: “You are a dirty fucking Yid”. Findings this week, which reported the harassment, anti-Semitism and hostility towards Jews in the National Union of Students, remind us that we must not forget where hatred and prejudice can lead.

In 1940, one-third of Warsaw’s population was rounded up and forced into a ghetto comprising 2.4% of the city’s area. How could this have happened? What lessons can we learn? One lesson is that we must not stand by silently while dreadful things are done around us. Death camp survivor Simon Wiesenthal, perhaps adapting from Edmund Burke, said:

“For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”

Yehuda Bauer said:

“Thou shall not be a perpetrator”,

but above all,

“thou shall never … be a bystander.”

This is what we must remember. So today, I am trying, in my own small way, to ensure that we record what happened. We can choose evil, like our enemies have done, and create a world based on hate, or we can try to make things better. We must not take freedom for granted.

Before I finish, I will quote the last testament of Israel Lichtensztajn, writing in Warsaw on 31 July 1942:

“I do not ask for any thanks, for any memorial, for any praise. Only to be remembered is what I wish, so that my people, my brothers and sisters overseas, should know where my bones have been taken to.”

He also asked that his wife, Gele, and his 20 month-old daughter, Margalit, be remembered. Today, Israel, we remember you.

My Lords, I join everyone else in the House in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, on the choice of this debate today and the wonderful way in which he opened it.

As we all know, Holocaust Memorial Day is 27 January, a day when we all remember the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and the millions of other people murdered by the Nazis, and the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. I join others in congratulating the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on choosing “ordinary people” as the theme for this year. As it says, this

“highlights the ordinary people who let genocide happen, the ordinary people who actively perpetrated genocide”,

the ordinary people who became rescuers during genocide,

“and the ordinary people who were persecuted.”

It highlights things such as the choice of language. All of us who have the privilege of public platforms need to be aware of the language that we use. When a Holocaust survivor asks us to consider the effect of our use of language to describe asylum seekers, she tells us that it is the language that was used to dehumanise and justify the murder of her family; in this case, words such as “swarms” and “invasion”. That echoes the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, who said that, when the Nazis moved into certain parts of Europe, they did not have to argue the case for anti-Semitism because it had already been made. That places on all of us the need to be careful of the language that we use. As he says, this is a journey, and that starts with the language that ordinary people use. We in the Labour Party have had to learn and relearn this lesson over this most painful time of dealing with anti-Semitism in our own ranks.

Preparing this speech made me wonder what led me to take part in this debate. I reflected that my left-wing parents sent me on an international youth camp in East Germany when I was 13 years old. We had a day trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which of course was a huge shock and a revelation to me, and probably not what my parents expected I would be doing.

When I was 16, the Jewish lady who was attempting to tutor me for my German O-level—which was a bit of a lost cause—gave me a book called Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel, which I read and reread in the years that followed. It is a woman survivor’s tale of Auschwitz which does not retreat into self-pity or sensationalism, and a stark reminder that the unspeakable can happen in all kinds of places.

I married into a family half of which is missing, because they were lost in the Holocaust. My beloved father-in-law, Henry Carr, was a survivor. He escaped from the Łódź ghetto at 13, making his way across Europe. They lost everyone except Henry and his brother Nathan, who ended up in Israel, and a cousin in the USA. I feel the need to declare an interest because my husband, John Carr, has written a book about his father’s odyssey. What it really tells me is that the story of the Holocaust for my family is about the need to make sure that our children and great-grandchildren never forget.

My Lords, around the world there are over 300—some say thousands—of Holocaust memorials, and in the UK at least six. All the while, anti-Semitism is growing rapidly and fearfully, not least amongst the young—for example, the National Union of Students. Yet these students have had compulsory Holocaust education at school. It seems to have taught them nothing, except that one can attack Jews most hurtfully by using Nazi symbols. This is why: it is taught as an event of the past—over there, all done with, nothing to do with us. The dotted line is not drawn between remembering the Holocaust—which we have done in many recordings by survivors and in museums—and the anti-Semitism of today. As the late Lord Sacks said, first it was our religion they hated, then our race, and today our nation state, Israel. Israel is the focus of today’s anti-Semitism. One cannot separate Holocaust remembrance from anti-Semitism, because that is to deny the centrality of the Jewish experience and the unique nature of the Jew-hatred that drove it. Also, it is because in part there might have been many fewer deaths if the allies had not been so reluctant to take refugees and had not kept Palestine closed to them.

Holocaust remembrance has to mean three things. First, the fate of the Jews has to be set in context, as Lord Sacks explained. Jewish history, culture and traditions have to be taught, the Jewish contribution to the world before the Holocaust, the hatred inculcated by teaching and preaching over the centuries, and the revival afterwards, including Israel and the attachment of the Jews to their land from biblical times onwards. The noble Lord, Lord Mann, set this out in his report on anti-Semitism. He said that schools must teach contemporary anti-Semitism coming from the left, the right and from Islamists.

Secondly, anti-Semitism is not over and done with. Generalities about hatred and intolerance miss the point. Too many politicians strike a pose by a memorial and declare themselves to be without a racist bone in their bodies. As the American Dara Horn said, they love dead Jews—not so much the living. Building memorials is superfluous: they portray Jews only as dead and victims, and that is not the image we want at the centre of our political life. When designed by financiers and politicians rather than scholars, as is the case with the new plan for Westminster, they are used for political ends, mistakenly presenting British values as the antidote to Jew-hatred and genocide. To claim that the vision of the Palace of Westminster as one emerges from a Holocaust memorial is some sort of epiphany and redemption only engenders complacency. A memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens would be environmentally damaging and would break the promise of 100 years to keep it open. The design is second-hand and meaningless, and the contents have been described by Sir Richard Evans as a national embarrassment. It will be ineffective and essentially not about the Holocaust, not a memorial, and not fitting for my relatives who died. The Jewish community needs to be fully consulted over any plans to build new memorials, and debate should not be closed down as it has been; objectors should not insultingly be labelled as anti-Semitic. The recommendations of the 2015 Prime Minister’s commission on anti-Semitism need to be revived, with its emphasis on a campus and a professorship.

Thirdly, the lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is that Jews could not survive without a state of their own as a refuge. Now that we have that safe haven, it has to be kept safe. Politicians need to combat anti-Semitism here and now, and, however uncomfortable it is, they must stand up for the 7 million Jews in Israel under existential threat from their neighbours. It is only Jewish self-defence and self-determination that will ensure “never again”.

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Pickles for securing this debate. It gives us an opportunity to perform a disturbing but essential duty—the duty to bear witness, as the noble Lord, Lord Kestenbaum, said, to the unparalleled abomination that engulfed and destroyed the lives of millions of what my noble friend Lord Pickles reminded us were ordinary people who happened to be Jewish, and which permanently scarred humanity with the deepest wound it has ever inflicted on itself.

In preparation for today’s debate, I read the autobiography of the late and much-revered Rabbi Hugo Gryn. About half of the book recounts an idyllic childhood spent at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains in what was then Czechoslovakia. Its stark contrast with what follows reduced me to tears. The rest of the book is a deeply distressing, dehumanising horror story. As we know, that was precisely the intention of the racist, genocidal Nazi regime: to dehumanise and annihilate a group that it classified as “Untermensch”. Yet as Hugo Gryn himself concedes, even until 1943, he and his family, living in the comparative safety of what was then Hungary, were unsuspecting. Now, 80 years later and with the horrors of Pol Pot, Srebrenica, and Xinjiang among others to remind us of how far and how fast we can fall as a species, we have no such excuse.

I have heard it said that, “It is terribly sad what happened to the Jews, but it was a long time ago.” Was it, and can we ever truly afford to consign a crime of such unconscionable depravity and magnitude to the distant past? Can we, when today in Europe Putin is using missiles designed to sink large warships instead to demolish apartment blocks full of innocent Ukrainian citizens? Can we, when humanity’s propensity for unspeakable, unbelievable barbarity is so much part of the present? It is rivalled only by our capacity to unlearn the lessons of history.

Hugo Gryn speaks of the duty of Holocaust survivors

“to impress our fellow men with our terrible knowledge, lest we or our children or our children’s children be doomed to suffer the agonies of its recurrence.”

We have a duty too. We have a choice. We can choose to ignore irrefutable evidence of genocide in Xinjiang, or we can promise today that what Hugo Gryn describes as

“the deafening silence of decent bystanders”,

whose passivity allowed the Holocaust to happen, will never apply to us.

My Lords, some years ago I was privileged to meet Susan Pollack OBE. After the German invasion of Hungary in 1944, Susan was first sent to the Vac ghetto, from where she was sent to an internment camp, followed by Auschwitz-Birkenau, then a forced labour rearmament camp and finally, after the Allies advanced, she was taken on a death march to Bergen-Belsen. After liberation, she had typhoid, TB and severe malnutrition.

When I met her, she had a twinkle in her eye, but in a very polite and courteous way she asked me why my party allowed people who hate Jews to join it. Your Lordships will not be surprised to know that Susan made a profound impact on me. I wrestled with the question of how liberal-minded people can be anti-Semitic. How can campaigners for a more equal society and a peaceful world be anti-Semites? I came to understand that at the heart of this question, to some people on the liberal left, the problem was psychological. Not wanting to be seen or thought of as anti-Semitic or to feel anti-Semitic, the campaigner becomes anti-Semitic to the degree that they could not forgive their fellow members for troubling their conscience and making them consider whether they were indeed anti-Semitic.

The author and public intellectual, Howard Jacobson, extrapolates this argument and applies it to anti-Zionists, saying that many liberal thinkers operate on a false syllogism:

“Not all critics of Israel are anti-Semites. I am a critic of Israel. Therefore I am not an anti-Semite.”

I saw too often that when certain members were challenged on anti-Semitic behaviour, rather than trying to understand the feelings of the members expressing hurt, their reaction was a kind of insolent denial, a closing down of the mind to the possibility that the offence being felt was legitimately held. Yet in all other areas of their life, the member would try to understand the lived experience of a complainant. Even when my Jewish parliamentary colleagues began to collectively organise, to express revulsion at events, they were very often treated with suspicion or criticised for in some way undermining the interests of their party, or, worse, their country, some even being accused of dual loyalties.

The worst calumny against the Jews is to say that, despite the Holocaust, Jews have not emerged from it as better people. The people who express this view often hold up their so-called proof of this failure as whatever the policy of the current democratically elected Government of Israel is. Therefore, it is a great relief to me that my party is now led by Sir Keir Starmer, who understands these things and continues to take a strong stance against anti-Semitism.

As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, it is important that people, particularly those in my own party, do not pay tribute to those murdered without paying equal respect to the living. In the years since my conversation with Susan, I have thought of her often, and I have realised that her testimony was a gift. May she continue to be blessed with long life.

My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for securing this debate.

Like most in this House down the years, I have had the honour and privilege of meeting with and hearing first-hand the brutal but brave testimony of Holocaust survivors. Sadly, each year the number of those survivors diminishes, and it will not be many years before they disappear from the face of the earth altogether. However, we cannot afford to have their passing simply mean that our commemoration and education of the Holocaust passes into history as well. Commemoration and education are more relevant today than they have ever been. The work of organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Lessons from Auschwitz project, which I was very proud as Education Minister in Northern Ireland to reinstate, are equally relevant.

The Holocaust was the most horrific example of genocide in the history of mankind, with a range of groups targeted by the Nazis and in particular an attempt to wipe from the face of the earth the Jewish population. Stalin once said that the death of an individual is a tragedy but the death of a million is a statistic. We are often faced with mind-blowing statistics about the numbers involved in the Holocaust, but we should always remember that behind every statistic involving the Holocaust lies an individual family, an individual person, an individual tragedy. For that reason alone, it is worth commemorating and educating future generations.

However, it is not simply for that reason that we should do this. We live in an era in which truth, particularly historic truth, is under attack. This is an era in which information is more readily available and in greater quantity than it has ever been in the history of mankind, yet we also live in an era where misrepresentation, misinformation and conspiracy theories pass around the world like wildfire, an era when facts can simply be dismissed as fake news and where history can be twisted and rewritten according to the purpose of those who are prepared to spread those lies. We live in an era in which, very sadly, the Holocaust did not mark the end of genocide on this planet. We have seen subsequent genocides. We live in an era in which anti-Semitism is still all too rife. Almost unbelievably, we live in an era in which some still try to deny the Holocaust.

Finally, I think that we need to learn the lessons of history from the Holocaust and the warnings it gives us. As the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, indicated in his opening remarks, while frenzy, terror and fanaticism were hallmarks of the Holocaust, so too were cool calculation in terms of organisation; so too were ordinary people who were either acquiescent to or perpetrators of the Holocaust. In particular, at the heart of the Holocaust lay deception. Many—indeed, the vast majority—of those going to the gas chambers did not realise their fate until the very last second. That was not to spare the feelings of the victims but for the perpetrators to ensure that they could carry out their wicked activities with the greatest levels of efficiency.

A former leader of mine, and former First Minister of Northern Ireland, once described politics as a never-ending relay race. As the survivors of the Holocaust complete their race, it falls to us to pick up the baton. It is our duty and honour to make sure that we can not only say to future generations “never again”, but that we take action to ensure “never again”.

My Lords, I begin by declaring my interest as a member of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, on which it is a true privilege to serve. Like many others, I thank my noble friend Lord Pickles for securing this debate, and for his tireless leadership on Holocaust commemoration, memorial and education.

I make no apology for repeating—even though we each have so little time to speak today—that the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ordinary people. It is so important that we remember that it was ordinary people—as many noble Lords have brought to life so emotionally today—who were victims of the Holocaust, but that we also acknowledge that it was ordinary people who let the Holocaust happen and who themselves became perpetrators. We need to learn that we too could be those ordinary people: those victims, but also those bystanders and, God forbid, those perpetrators. Germany in the 1920s was arguably the most vibrant and open society in the world—the place artists, philosophers and scientists flocked to. Yet, 10 years later, that same society had turned on its own people and others in the most atrocious way. So, for me, Holocaust Memorial Day is about remembering and learning that it could be us, so that we ensure that we do not repeat the sins of the past.

I fear that there has never been a more important time to do this. I worry that historians and therefore also politicians underestimate the impact the Spanish flu had on society in the 1920s and 1930s. History tells us clearly that pandemics cause inflation and war. We see that today. But I fear that pandemics also scar society in a deep, visceral way that war on its own does not. A pandemic touches literally everyone in society for a prolonged period of time. It requires everyone to do something profoundly inhumane—to separate from family and friends and cut ourselves off from each other—while at the same time exacerbating existing inequalities and unfairness. As a result, societies emerge from pandemics angry and off-kilter, and this, combined with inflation, leads not just to conflicts with enemies but to huge societal unease: a breeding ground for the worst parts of human nature.

Unfortunately, we are living through one of those times. As the world comes out of Covid, we are seeing inflation; we are seeing war; we are seeing anger, frustration and fear. So I argue that it has never been more important that we remember and learn from the horrors of the Holocaust. We must remember that we cannot be passive bystanders and cannot turn a blind eye to evil, because even the most seemingly progressive societies can turn very sour very quickly. I do not believe that history must repeat itself. Humanity has shown time and again that we can and do learn from our mistakes, but that is not pre-ordained. History will only not repeat itself if we make sure we remember and learn, which is why Holocaust Memorial Day and Holocaust education are so important.

My Lords, this is the first time I have spoken on this subject at an event of this kind, and I am terrified that my words will go towards trivialising the important subject that we are discussing. I begin by paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for her courageous stance on the question of the memorial that is intended to be locally placed, whose line I fully support for the reasons that she has given.

In the 1990s, I lived in Golders Green and was chair of the Hendon and Golders Green branch of the Council of Christians and Jews. We had some wonderful and profound times together, but the most searing memory of those years was when my wife and I attended an early showing of “Schindler’s List” in the local cinema. In the darkened interior of the cinema, we were a small minority of non-Jews. The sighing and the sobbing were searing: I have never forgotten that, and it has posed the question of how I as a non-Jew respond to this in its most radical way.

First, it made me aware of the depth of the suffering, and the continuation of that suffering. But it also asked a question of me about what happens to the memory of such an important event when it is handled in a way that is basically entertainment. Groups of children were going to Auschwitz as part of their education; once again, Auschwitz turned into a visitor centre. My own capacity to say smooth words, which I am a professional at, raises the possibility of using my very gifts to go towards trivialising what is such an inexpressible event. With all that in mind, and with due apologies to people who find this a little difficult, at the time that I lived in Golders Green, I had just finished reading—just one of a whole number of things—a book called Shadows of Auschwitz: a Christian Response to the Holocaust. That led me to include a poem in a publication of devotional material that I launched at that time.

There are two things that have challenged my Christian faith more than anything else. One is the Holocaust; the other—again, something with which I have had close connections and involvement with over many years—is slavery. The poem is like this, and I hope that noble Lords will bear with me if I read it:

“I look at the photographs

in silence,

deep, deep silence.

One question rises


Where is God?

Bodies are carted into

the inextinguishable blaze

of gaping ovens;

human bones piled in little hills

waiting to be turned into fertilizer,

macabre transubstantiation;

Where is God?

Three corpses hang limply from a gibbet,

swollen tongues loll heavily,

a soldier, an ordinary man, poses for a snapshot

beneath this grim Calvary

proud, it seems, of his part

in blasphemy;

Where is God?

Cadavers strewn at random

in a common grave

big as a football field;

featureless bodies who

once were ordinary men and women

boys and girls

made for life and love;

Where is God?

Human hair made into rugs

flesh turned into soap

skin into lampstands

gold fillings extracted

melted down.

Nothing wasted;

nothing lost;

Where is God?

In a world like this

Where is God?

In the world you made

Where are you God?”


My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for bringing this very important and moving debate. I am not a Jew; I have no Romani or Traveller heritage. As far as I know, my family did not lose anybody in the Holocaust, but I still felt compelled to speak today. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, as are racism, homophobia and xenophobia. We have to be careful not to repeat past mistakes.

It is hard to speak of the Holocaust, simply because it was such a shameless and industrial-scale systematic perversion. My father was a cook in the RAF. He was based in Gütersloh in the summer of 1945. It was 78 years ago this month that Auschwitz was liberated by the allies. My father met servicemen who had been part of the liberation of concentration camps. He said that they were in a state of disbelief, distress and shock at the sights they had seen, which were so horrific they could barely talk about them.

As we have heard, Germany was a nation known for its cultural richness. It was a country that produced intellectuals, yet it conceived and operated a system of slavery and murder in the most horrific and distorted way. I do not want to be a bystander. I see that we have problems here in Britain, and globally, with all kinds of hatred. I want to speak up about them.

The Holocaust was a brutal manifestation of ethnonationalism—a form of identity politics built on normative and biological difference. We have to ensure that it must for ever exist as an exceptional event. But only last year our security services warned of a sharp rise in far-right extremism here in Britain. The far right in Britain shares some clear common political logic that underpinned 1930s Nazism. Dr Michelsen and Dr de Orellana of King’s College London, who are experts in international relations and nationalism, have demonstrated in their latest research that

“we are witnessing a resurgence of nationalist ideas globally—driven by online social media networks, and it fosters the same violent identity politics which enabled the Holocaust to happen”.

If we understand that the Holocaust must be an historical, appalling exception, never to be repeated, we have to watch for socially unhealthy indicators. Just last year, a young teenager committed suicide in a care home. She had been radicalised by a network of online far-right extremists from America and she had been charged with terror offences. The resurgence of global far-right networks poses a continuous and dangerous threat. We must endeavour to challenge racism and hold those who perpetuate it online to account.

Today is a day where we remember the victims of the Holocaust. We must never forget.

My Lords, we have heard some very impressive speeches. This will not be one, but in my brief contribution I will make three swift points.

First, I pay tribute to Karen Pollock and the Holocaust Educational Trust, which took me to Auschwitz some 17 years ago. It was not trivialised, I can tell you. I knew a lot about the Holocaust. I had read Five Chimneys. Because of my age, I was brought up with Leon Uris—okay, Exodus is fiction, but it was a very powerful book and film. I had been to Belsen at least twice, because I was stationed near there in the Army in the 1970s. But the experience of going to Auschwitz was shocking, moving and educational, and it will stay with me, as I think it will for everybody who goes there, for ever. I thank the Holocaust Educational Trust.

My second point is about anti-Semitism, which other people have talked about and know much more about than I do. It is unbelievable that it exists in the UK today. There was a report in the Times yesterday, which my noble friend Lady Altmann referred to, about people being driven out of a pub by anti-Semitic abuse from Arsenal fans. In Britain, in London, in 2023? Crikey.

I went to school on the edge of north-west London and, because of the catchment area, I should think that one in five or six of the children were Jewish. There was a lot of name-calling, but I can promise noble Lords that there was no anti-Semitism. There was anti-Semitism in Britain some 80-odd years ago. We think of Moseley, the Blackshirts, the battle of Cable Street, et cetera; it was a very different situation. But after the war, for various reasons—a generation had passed, the shocking understanding of the Holocaust and the concentration camps, and the amazing contribution given to society in Britain by Jewish refugees from Europe, be it in medicine, academia, politics, business or the law—I thought it had gone.

Noble Lords might be interested to know that, when I was at Sandhurst, part of my curriculum included the film—I think it won best film in 1947—“Gentleman’s Agreement”, staring Gregory Peck. It was about anti-Semitism. It was designed to show us—and did—the irrationality and absurdity of anti-Semitism, and indeed discrimination. So why is anti-Semitism on the rise? I do not understand it. It may be social media, which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, just referred to, or the issue of Israel and Palestine, but it is irrational, and we need to call it out.

My third point will be less welcome to some noble Lords. It is not anti-Semitic at all—indeed, I think it will be supported by a large proportion of the Jewish community in London. Building an education centre in Victoria Tower Gardens is a very bad idea. It has been thrown out by local people, the city council and the High Court, and it has been criticised by Historic England and many others. I walk there regularly. Victoria Tower Gardens is much used by local people, tourists and children, and it is the only significant green space where you can walk by the river on the north bank between Bishops Park and somewhere in the Essex marshes. Questions of security have not been answered. The design of the centre is shocking. The traffic that it will build up will be huge; it has been estimated that there will be 2 million visitors a year, which would be quite interesting. The Imperial War Museum wants it, and there is now the possibility of special legislation to crush the opposition of local people and destroy this green space. I thought we were meant to respect the views of others, but apparently not of local people in Westminster. Why is this being done? I do not understand. I ask proponents of this very foolish idea to think again and accept that it is a foolish idea, or to at least explain why they want to build this monstrosity on a very small green space that is much valued in London.

My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this debate. It is a rare privilege that I will remember for a long time to listen to the way the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, introduced this Motion.

The overture to horror is mundane, ordinary. It begins as a whisper. In 1933, approximately 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe, and that number represented more than 60% of the world’s Jewish population at that time. By 1945, most European Jews, two out of every three, had been killed—murdered. Others murdered by the Nazis were millions of Soviets, 250,000 disabled people, up to 400,000 Gypsy and Romani, approximately 200,000 intellectuals, communists and freemasons, and more than 55,000 homosexuals. It happened a stone’s throw away in time, and it could happen again.

Just when we think we have passed an inhumanity too far, memories and fears fade, complacency sets in and evil triumphs in the silence of ordinary people who say nothing and walk away. There have been echoes in other parts of the world: Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda. I still remember the photographs in the Rwandan genocide memorial; photos taken by family or friends of ordinary women, men and children who were cut down and killed. They were ordinary women, men and children who, looking out from their photographs, had hopes, dreams and fears, but who never imagined the end they would face.

I also vividly remember the exhibition that toured the world of the piles of shoes from those who entered the Nazi camps, where they would be further dehumanised, worked to death, starved and murdered. I think of the women, men and children who wore them. I think of them as they removed their shoes for what would be the last time—women, men and children who were casually defamed, misrepresented, stereotyped and dehumanised—and I ask myself, “Have we learned the lessons? Does history have enough horrors to shake us from complacency and indifference?”

The answer, I have to tell your Lordships, is no. We have not learned the lessons. Hatred is still with us. Since 2016 and year on year, hate crime has been on the rise. Anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, rampant xenophobia, anti-migrants and anti-Roma—hatred that connects. Prejudices that were silently housed are now spoken aloud. Culture wars are promoted by government Ministers, printed media and broadcasters.

Such casual dehumanisation affects every single one of us. If we stand back in silence or look away, we are complicit, so Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to remember. Think of the millions of lives and then think of each one of them and how they could have changed this world for the better. Remember them not as numbers but as one would remember one’s own loved ones. Remember them and recall how minorities are still today misrepresented as a threat when all they want to do is live their lives according to the same laws as everyone else.

History demands that we stand with the most defamed, the most misrepresented and the most unfavoured. It equally demands that we speak against those who portray people in need as a swarm, a threat and an invasion.

My Lords, I welcome the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, I welcome the Stockholm declaration of 2000 and I am delighted that so many events are taking place throughout the country to commemorate this special day. Of course, there have been other genocides in the past—I had the honour of chairing two reconciliation committees of Hutus and Tutsis following the Rwanda genocide—but nothing in history was so systematic, so state sponsored and so vast as the killing of the Jews before and during the war, with a Government using all the tools of extermination for their ends.

This year’s theme is ordinary people. Ordinary survivors were so important in telling the story to our schools. We talk of 6 million Jews. That number is too vast to comprehend. Far more relevant is to look at the suffering of individuals. For example, I think of the number of obituaries of survivors we are seeing now—they are indeed dying out—which are enough to make the stones weep.

Two examples come quickly to mind. One is the woman who was clutching her toddler sister at the gates of a camp when the cane of a camp guard came down and separated them; she never saw her sister again. The other is the woman who was forced to go into the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz and had to play, tearfully, as many Jews arrived and waved welcomingly to her. She knew the fate they would have. Any doubters should visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, and see at the entrance the Polish children’s choir of about 1936, singing what became the Israeli national anthem. Many of them of course did not survive.

Why do and should we remember? Because anti-Semitism is still alive today. The Stockholm declaration asked us not only to commemorate the victims but to honour those who stood against it. There are remarkable stories of those who were the righteous among the gentiles, such as Sir Nicholas Winton, the prime mover of the Kindertransport, who told me that his great regret was that there was a last train standing in Prague station, full of Jewish children who were ready to leave, having said their goodbyes to their parents, with their satchels and their parcels of food, but at that very moment the SS guards arrived and the train was stopped. Many of those children must have died. That was the major regret of the remarkable Nicky Winton.

Such dreadful events should provoke profound reflections among us all. So many people saw their Jewish neighbours being taken away but did nothing against it. We gentiles must ask ourselves: what would we have done in those circumstances? Would we have turned a blind eye, said it was just too much and chosen a quiet life?

The Holocaust, of course, is not a problem of history. It affects us all. It is not like the French Revolution. There are appalling examples of discrimination today in our world. We should remember the horrors of the past and stand up and be counted today.

My Lords, it is an honour and privilege to contribute to this debate, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for making it possible. My father, born into an Orthodox Jewish family, married out, and early on I learned that I was not “actually” Jewish. However, had I been born 10 years earlier and on the other side of the Channel, my fate would probably have been no different from that of those individuals whom we commemorate today.

Moreover, despite my lack of religious qualification, I have been able to explore my Jewish ethnicity. First, before university, I worked for four months on a kibbutz and for a subsequent two months in an old-age home in Haifa. Much later, my ties with Israel were renewed when, in 2002, as a scientist, I served as a member of BRITech, an Anglo-Israeli investment fund promoting technologies that could not have been developed by either country unilaterally. I also declare an interest as a member of council of the Weizmann Foundation from 2000 to 2004 and as a recipient of honorary degrees from the Hebrew University and the University of Haifa.

It is as a neuroscientist that I am particularly interested in the theme today of ordinary people. From a biological perspective, none of us is ordinary. The wonderful thing about being a human being is that, although we are born with a full complement of brain cells, it is the growth of connections between the cells that is crucial after birth. Even if you are a clone, an identical twin, you will have a unique configuration of constantly evolving and dynamic brain cell networks that make you the individual you are. You are a one-off who has never before existed, nor ever will again.

Each brain, and thus each life story, is gradually shaped by the next encounter, the next vicissitude and the next achievement, so that this accumulation of experiences over time gives us an evolving frame of reference to interpret the world, a way for others to see us and, most importantly, a way for us to see ourselves—our identity.

In the Holocaust, ordinary individuals who were extraordinary to their loved ones, their friends and their colleagues, and who would have made a unique contribution to the world, were prevented from doing so. What of those who did the preventing—the ordinary perpetrators who were “just obeying orders”? They too would have had unique, individual minds, but they shut them down in favour of conformity to the Nazi regime. They made themselves ordinary.

Such voluntary abandonment of an open mind is eloquently described in Defying Hitler, a memoir by German journalist Sebastian Haffner. Written in 1939 and published posthumously in 2000, it is a first-hand memoir of ordinary German citizens living between the wars. A central argument is that decent, compassionate people suffered none the less from a weak self-image, and were thus vulnerable to a collective identity imposed externally by powerfully effective indoctrination. The consequences were, as we reflect on this special day, devastating. Only by respecting, curating and celebrating the extraordinariness of the human mind can we be sure that the horrors of the Holocaust will never be repeated.

I make the case, rooted in science, for providing an environment where the mind remains open, where learning is prized and thus where individuality and ingenuity can flourish. That is surely in the Jewish tradition and would be a fitting memorial to those who perished.

My Lords, I would like to acknowledge the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and his lifetime of devotion to this cause. I too will go down the road opened up by my noble friend Lord Kestenbaum in talking more personally about this.

I spent all of August in Ukraine. Moving through Ukraine, I travelled from Kyiv all the way down to Odessa, and it brought home to me the reality of genocide. I was treated extremely well by my Ukrainian hosts and invited into the cathedral of St Michael for the mass of St Barbara, and into the cathedral in Odessa to observe the mass there. These masses were full, but all the way down—even in Odessa, which in 1941 was almost 50% Jewish—the synagogues were closed. There was no one there.

President Putin says that the goal of the war is denazification; I would say that a small footnote of the war is that it is the end of the Jewish community in Ukraine. They have left and it is abandoned. A community that in 1941 was more than 2 million and that gave us Jabotinsky, Leon Trotsky, Isaac Babel and the Baal Shem Tov is decimated. That incredible centre of Jewish civilization has gone, and that is the reality of the Holocaust. There are now no longer any Jews in Ukraine. When I was in Odessa, on Friday night I went to the synagogue, where a man just stood there and said to me, “All gone—Jews all gone”. That is the reality of what we are looking at.

I witnessed some extraordinary things when I was in Ukraine, not least that the majority of the soldiers who were fighting for the freedom and sovereignty of Ukraine were Russian-speaking. To develop this point, and I would like the Minister to take note of this, the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, said in his opening remarks that there was a rinsing of reputations. I want to raise this issue because the dead scream at me; when I am there, it is not the dead who I miss but those who were not born. I go and I have no family to visit or people to welcome me. The ghosts of the unborn are alive, and the abandonment and fate of my people is clear.

What really disturbed me when I was in Ukraine was the restoration of the reputation of Stepan Bandera. Wherever I went in the small towns, his image was there. When I met soldiers, they had portraits of him. Bandera was an ally of Hitler, an active proponent of the OUN and the UPA. We should remember that between 1941 and 1943, there was no Auschwitz or industrial slaughter; it was all done by hand. The decimation of Ukrainian Jewry was done by all too ordinary people. In the village where my grandfather was born—in his shtetl—they were just slaughtered. In Odessa, they were taken into the main square and slaughtered. In Babi Yar, as we should remember, 100 at a time went into the pit. They were all slaughtered in an alliance between the Einsatzgruppe, the German Nazi group, and local Ukrainian groups. Bandera was a central part of that.

I absolutely support Ukraine. I went to Ukraine to show my solidarity with its people against the invasion, but they created a national holiday for Bandera’s birthday only last week. I urge the Minister to please say that in this war, we absolutely support Ukraine but we must also resolutely oppose any rehabilitation of the murderers and perpetrators of the Holocaust.

My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for enabling this debate. We should pause for a moment to think of our noble friend Lord Dubs, who is ill in hospital at the moment. He was part of the Kindertransport, a gift that kept on giving—maybe not as much as we would have liked, but it made an important contribution.

When I was about 13, I was quite a precocious reader. I happened to chance upon a book in the library called The Scourge of the Swastika. It is not a book that is known about much today, but at 13 years old and as someone who was born a Jew it opened my eyes to the appalling Nazi war atrocities. It was written by Lord Russell of Liverpool and initially banned by the Government, but they were then forced to allow its publication. Of course, his grandson is with us today as a hereditary Peer. I recommend that book to those who have not read it. It is an amazing description of and example of what can happen. He also wrote another book on Japanese war crimes.

My family were Jewish immigrants from Holland, Odessa, and Lithuania or Poland—the borders were porous, so it is difficult to know exactly where. My cousin Leo survived an Anne Frank experience. He was hidden in a compartment in Rotterdam. He could remember hearing the Gestapo marching around the house, his mother with her hand over his mouth to prevent him coughing and giving them away. What a terrible experience to go through, but he was one of the lucky ones and luckier than Anne Frank.

I was deeply ashamed of our party being found to have practised anti-Semitism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It was one of the times in my life in which I thought very carefully about whether I wanted to belong to a party that allowed that to happen and tolerated it. I welcomed the decisive action taken by Keir Starmer.

There are sections of our society in which Holocaust deniers and those who believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy are still prevalent, unfortunately. That emphasises the need for interfaith co-operation. I am a critic of the current Israeli Government—I certainly would not be voting for Benjamin Netanyahu—but I believe in a two-state solution and, following the Balfour Declaration, Israel’s right to exist. I hope that does not make me in any way anti-Semitic. It makes me a critical friend of Israel, and I think that is important in today’s circumstances.

This has been a really important debate. There has been an interesting divergence of opinion. That is no bad thing because in today’s society we need the ability to respect divergent views. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for enabling us to take part in this debate.

My Lords, it is with some humility that I venture forth today, having listened to the speeches of those who have so much more to say. It is absolutely right that we mark the Holocaust with a day of remembrance and with this debate, and all the more so at a time of increased denial and distortion. Anti-Semitism is on the rise and must be put down. Holocaust denial is essentially, but not only, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. It falsely asserts that the Nazi genocide of Jews and others, known as the Holocaust, is a myth, a fabrication, or an exaggeration. The danger of what happened lies now in the mundanity of so much. For example, I happened by chance upon platform 17 at Grunewald station in Berlin, from which so many left to their doom. One only has to spend an afternoon in the house on the Wannsee to see the astonishing murder organisation laid bare. The photographic history set out there also gave me an important insight into the long-standing anti-Semitism, I am afraid, in Germany, for 100 years or more before that. I left that afternoon with a headache; I am sure that others have left with worse.

In this context, we need to fight against so-called historical revisionists, or worse, who deceive and distort the truth. Friday 27 January is an important day for the focus it brings. We must argue against those who seek to introduce false equivalence with individual occasions in war of wrongdoing. Often, these are advanced under cover of apparent balance and objectivity. Perpetrators thereby lessen the truth of the genocide which was at the core of the Holocaust. We need eternal vigilance.

In this context, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth is to be congratulated on its brand-new galleries dedicated to the Holocaust and the Second Word War. They are 20 minutes’ walk from here. They tell the tales of individual Jews murdered in this catastrophic event. They do so through photos, books, artwork and letters—ordinary lives, ordinary people; people like us. Those galleries occupy thousands of square feet. They won the 2022 Permanent Exhibition of the Year award.

Visible memorials remind and teach, but I hope that the Government will think again about putting such a very big memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, as they previously proposed. I felt, and it is a personal view, that it was the wrong structure for that site. I will leave it there.

Holocaust denial is a poison. We must strive continuously to eradicate it. That is why this memorial day is so important. We must educate our young so that they and the generations who follow cannot ignore, let alone deny, the horrors of what happened. Only then can we prevent repetitions. We must remember them.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, on obtaining this debate. As a rather humble gentile, and like my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, I feel a bit nervous about trying to contribute to this discussion.

My dad fought in the Second World War. As a result, I was brought up on war stories and everything that had happened then. As a student, I was obsessed with the question of how a sophisticated nation such as Germany could end up being run, with a large measure of electoral support, by a bunch of vile criminals. That question still worries me today whenever I see the emergence of what I regard as awful populism in our politics.

There was no Jewish community in Carlisle, where I grew up. My first friend who was a Jew was when I went to work for Bill Rodgers as Minister of Transport in 1976. His wife, Silvia, had come from Berlin, having got out after Kristallnacht with her mother, who was a Communist Party activist and secular Jew. I learned a lot from her. She used to show me pictures of her class and explain that there were only two survivors from it.

The most moving thing was when I paid my first trip to Israel in my 30s and went to Yad Vashem. I will never forget it; to be quite honest, I could barely cope with it. It is one reason why I just cannot come to terms with the anti-Semitism that still exists in our society. Having visited Yad Vashem, I will defend the State of Israel and its right to exist all my life, even though I object to some of the policies of the present Government and some of the people in that Government. Israel has that right to exist. I reject anti-Semitism in my own party; that was one of the things that brought me almost to resignation from the Labour Party, as a result of what was happening prior to 2019. I greatly respect what Keir Starmer has done to root that out.

I will be optimistic for one moment. I remember walking around the reasonably new Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The fact that Germany has tried to come to terms with its past and repent for its collective sins is a cause for optimism about the future of the world. I end with my hope that, if other genocides are threatened in the world, we will not just stand back and do nothing, as a lot of our politicians did in the 1930s.

My Lords, we should all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for his long-standing and assiduous work on Holocaust issues and for this debate. I want to focus on what the Holocaust was a symptom of.

The primary focus has always been on the 6 million Jews who perished. I would be the last to say that this should not be mourned, remembered and understood—none of my grandfather’s family who remained in Poland survived it. But it was not only Jewish people who were the victims. It was people who were different—different from a concocted so-called norm of what a nation essentially was. The noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and others referred to some: people who were gay; people with disabilities; people with learning difficulties and mental illness; and, in great numbers, the Roma and Sinti population of eastern and central Europe. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, so eloquently described, all were thought of as to be eliminated. Usually only a passing mention is made of these groups, when they feature at all in the accounts. We nevertheless find this kind of discrimination repugnant now—or do we?

Many countries have passed legislation outlawing discrimination and successive Governments are to be commended for that. Discrimination in jobs, for instance, against some groups is decreasing. But that is not the same as no longer considering those who are different as inferior. Homophobic and racist bullying continues; children with learning difficulties or physical disabilities have a much worse time in school than others; and, as a recent television programme by David Baddiel and the play by Jonathan Freedland have shown, hate speech against, or derogatory stereotyping of, white minority ethnic people is not regarded as anything out of the ordinary. Those two thoughtful events concerned Jews, but they are also intensely applicable to Gypsies, Travellers and Roma people, whose life chances are so severely damaged by prejudice. I declare my unremunerated interests in various posts as set out in the register.

White minority ethnic groups are very small populations, but you can still hear words such as “plague”, “swamped”, “taking over power”, “conspiracy” and so on. Of course, we are very far from ethnic cleansing in this country. But prejudice is a spectrum and toleration of hate speech and stereotyping opens a door in the climate of opinion that can lead, especially through international social media, to which my noble friend Lord Kestenbaum referred, to much more violent action. It is as if people need a “them” to be confident of being “us”.

I do not doubt that this has been a feature of human societies ever since they emerged, but there are some communities that do not appear to need to “other” groups or to dehumanise or demonise them. I think that we should study that and work on defining nations not by some alleged ethnic character but by their values. It is time that we welcomed difference, because that is how we adapt, innovate and grow creatively, as well as finding our common humanity. That would be the best way to respond to the past terror of the Holocaust and the present terrors of persecution and annihilation still poisoning our world. I ask the Minister whether His Majesty’s Government are doing any work on how societies that embrace difference conduct themselves, or how we can, through education, particularly in history, move our culture on to be truly inclusive.

This has been a remarkable debate. I have taken part in debates in the other place, but this never ceases to move me. The lessons that I learn every single time makes it very much worth while being here every year.

The noble Lord, Lord Pickles, painted a bright, vivid picture of all those shoes. I, too, have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau and seen those piles of shoes and the hair, which are a moving testament on their own. We have heard many moving testaments today. I draw attention to, among others, the moving story from the noble Lord, Lord Kestenbaum, about his great-grandmother and the tragic toll on his wider family.

We have been talking about ordinary people for the whole debate. My noble friend Lady Brinton talked about another demonised group, the Roma and Gypsy community, so many of whom died in the Holocaust and who are vilified to this day. She also stole my line. I was going to talk about Martin Niemöller and how we stand by and do nothing. Many noble Lords have said that today. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, talked about discrimination on the same lines—the “them” and the “us”, and “them” defining “us”. It does not have to be that way.

I wanted to mention the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who gave a brave explanation of anti-Semitism in his own party. I have always wondered about it but not been able to figure it out, because of how Labour conducts itself in so many different ways. We have to remember that it is just a few who take that unfortunate point of view. I commend Keir Starmer for the work that he has done on that.

There was nothing trivial in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port. I thought that his remarks were very moving. We often tell stories to explain, in a vivid way, what we are trying to say.

How fascinating to have the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, point out to us how unique we all are, and how that uniqueness and development shapes our views and our behaviour in later life. Vive la diversité—I think; I do not speak French very well.

The noble Lord, Lord Glasman, spoke profoundly about going to Ukraine and how someone came out of the synagogue and said, “All gone”, and how he saw the ghosts of the unborn.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, talked about where political rhetoric and hate speech can lead. I also want to pick up that theme a little more.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talked about the rise of the far right as a warning. A number of noble Lords have talked about the polarisation of society and how we have to be very careful.

As well as all the stories, information and images that have been shared today, I want to add two little stories of my own. The first relates to when I was a new Member of Parliament. My first caseworker was a Scottish girl, newly married with a strong Glaswegian accent, which stood her in good stead because it gave her an air of maturity that belied her years. I also had an elderly constituent who wanted to come and see me to ask what I was going to do about “all these immigrants”.

She had a clear picture in her mind of what “these immigrants” were like—it was not like this hijab-wearing young Muslim woman. When the old lady walked into the surgery and set eyes on Bara, she quickly said, “Oh, I didn’t mean you, dear”. But she did, because all racism stems from ignorance. Ignorance permits all kinds of beliefs and leads to actions—actions that my caseworker knew all about: the catcalls, the insults on the bus, the bullying and the violence—that may, one day, lead right down to the thickest edge of the thickest wedge and, eventually, to the final solution. We should never believe that it cannot happen here.

My final story, which I will finish with, is another true story. It happened less than a week ago and has already been referred to by a couple of noble Lords. It is about another elderly lady expressing her views. This was a lady called Joan, who had been a child survivor of the Holocaust and whose family had all been murdered, asking a question of the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom. Joan called Suella out in a meeting for the use of the terms “swarms” and “invasion”, which had also been

“used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others.”

Braverman replied:

“I won’t apologise for the language that I’ve used to demonstrate the scale of the problem … I will not shy away from saying that we have a problem with people … breaking our laws and undermining our system.”

She certainly did not say, “I didn’t mean you, dear”. She should beware the thin edge of the wedge, as should we all.

My Lords, there are some debates where it feels daunting to do justice to the enormity and significance of the subject. I feel that today, but I also feel among friends and colleagues. At the outset, I declare my interests in the register as a vice-president of Liberal Judaism and the European co-chair of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians. I have also been an adviser to the World Jewish Congress and am the former chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for leading today’s debate in his characteristically powerful way. I continue to be grateful for the diligence and dignity with which he carries out his national and international responsibilities for Holocaust remembrance. I have been moved by the contributions from noble Lords across the House, whom I also thank. The sentiments expressed in this Chamber today will echo far beyond its walls.

I start by speaking fondly of Bob and Ann Kirk, who came to this country from Germany on the Kindertransport. As my noble friend Lord Anderson said, we should be grateful to the likes of Nicholas Winton, who did not stand by, for saving so many. Ann was an only child whereas Bob, whom she would later marry in 1950, was the youngest in his family. His parents perished in a concentration camp in Riga. Ann tells the story of her parents frantically waving as she left on the Kindertransport—the last time she ever saw them.

Many thousands of parents showed unimaginable courage in letting their beloved children go unaccompanied to England on the Kindertransport, with no idea what would lie before them. These were ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Bob and Ann cautioned me on the use of language, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann. As my noble friend Lord Cashman said, it all started with a whisper. They also talked about the value of Holocaust remembrance and what it meant to them, because it could prevent the same devaluing of humans being repeated and the brutal consequences that follow. My noble friend Lord Griffiths read a moving poem that repeatedly asks, “Where is God?” I say to him that Bob and Ann put it to me in a similar way, asking, “Where was humanity?”

Ordinary people just like Ann, Bob and their parents are the theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. I congratulate the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on its organisation of remembrance through this fundamental truth. As it says:

“Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Ordinary people turn a blind eye, believe propaganda, join murderous regimes. And those who are persecuted, oppressed and murdered in genocide aren’t persecuted because of crimes they’ve committed—they are persecuted simply because they are ordinary people who belong to a particular group”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, made an elegant scientific case for the ordinary and the extraordinary, while my noble friends Lady Whitaker and Lord Glasman talked about the relevance of hatred and standing by in our world today.

My noble friends Lady Thornton, Lord Liddle, Lord Watson and Lord Young all spoke of the pain of anti-Semitism that was a stain on the Labour Party. It was a stain not only on Labour but, we felt, on politics in our country. Like them, I acknowledge and appreciate the determination and action of Keir Starmer in rooting it out, which he has done and will continue to do. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, for her commendation of his actions.

This debate resonates deeply with me, reflecting on my visit to the Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum, no doubt in the same way as it does for the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst. The light and brightness of those galleries is a deliberate feature to highlight that 6 million people were not murdered in the dark, nor did they live in it.

It was a profoundly shaping experience for me, as an MP, to first go to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Holocaust Educational Trust on its “Lessons from Auschwitz” project. I thank the Holocaust Educational Trust for its work and influence over many years. The project allows young people to pass through the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” gates and through the rooms filled with tonnes of human hair, prosthetic limbs and glasses seized from the victims, to walk along the train lines and to stand at the site of the former crematoria. It has an unparalleled impact on understanding the past, and through reflective assemblies on their return, it often ignites in them a determination to speak out against the anti-Semitism and hatred that allowed the Holocaust to happen.

For me, the most powerful impact of being immersed in this experience was when I saw a wall of black and white photos of ordinary people doing ordinary things: young women having a laugh with each other; families strolling on the beach; people getting married; or toddlers taking their first steps. These ordinary people were condemned to persecution, inhumane cruelty and extermination on an industrial scale just because they were Jews and were inferior and expendable in the eyes and minds of some—as were the Roma and Sinti people, gay men, disabled people, political opponents and others.

As these murderous events soon pass from living memory and leave us without the first-hand testimony of survivors, it is all the more necessary that we tell the individual stories of some of the 6 million Jewish people who were murdered. I want to pay tribute to the survivors, as many noble Lords have done—those ordinary people who have done and do the extraordinary without even seeing it as such. Their strength, testimonies and very existence present not just an inspiration but a reminder. As Lily Ebert said on her 99th birthday—which she marked with a family trip to the seaside—she was proof, in her own words, that the “Nazis did not win”.

I am immensely proud that the UK played such a pivotal role in the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day as the International Day of Commemoration in 2000, but let us remind ourselves that the underlying issues have not gone away. The Community Security Trust recorded 786 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK in the first six months of 2022. As my noble friend Lady Anderson said, today’s CST report shows a 22% increase in anti-Jewish hatred. The world’s oldest hatred is alive and kicking, and this is shameful. This year, 2023, is a particularly poignant anniversary for genocide commemoration as we mark 20 years since the start of the genocide in Darfur, while also remembering those affected by genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. With misinformation so often leading to hatred and prejudice, we all have a responsibility not just to remember but to act, and to identify the warning signs of genocide today.

The UK needs a national memorial to the Holocaust, and there is no site more appropriate than next to the mother of Parliaments—this Parliament. I hear that some noble Lords do not share this view, and I am sure we will continue to debate this. There has been a stalling in the progress of this important project, but I hope the Minister can commit today to a cross-party, all-community effort to revitalise it.

As my noble friend Lord Kestenbaum said, today we all carry the burden of history. It is a responsibility which we all share. There are many ordinary people who have done and will do extraordinary things—I hope we can be among them.

My Lords, I start by conveying my thanks to my noble friend Lord Pickles, the United Kingdom Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, for securing this debate. I echo so many noble Lords in expressing thanks to him for everything he does in this area. I also send sincere condolences from myself and, I think, the whole House to the family and friends of Zigi. May he rest in peace.

I am grateful to noble Lords from all sides of this House for their valuable and moving contributions to this important debate. I thank especially the noble Lords, Lord Kestenbaum, Lord Glasman and Lord Young of Norwood Green, my noble friends Lord Polak and Lady Altmann, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. They all looked into their heart and soul and told their stories. Those are what I will take away most strongly from today’s debate, so I thank them for doing that.

The United Kingdom can be proud of its record when it comes to Holocaust remembrance and education. We were one of the first signatories to the Stockholm declaration of 2000, which called on countries to recognise 27 January, the day Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We hosted our first Holocaust Memorial Day in 2001.

The Stockholm declaration is also the founding document of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance—IHRA. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the IHRA’s working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion, which will be a key focus for the IHRA member countries in 2023. The United Kingdom has the honour of chairing the IHRA in 2024.

Many noble Lords have mentioned this year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day: ordinary people. The Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax in Treblinka, Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women. We have seen it again: a madness that takes hold of individuals and then sweeps through peoples and whole nations. As we have heard, the killings in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal—less than human. These are the seeds of hatred that we cannot allow to take root in our hearts.

We are all familiar with the stories of the ordinary people who were involved in extraordinary acts of bravery to save Jewish people. In the United Kingdom we have recognised 44 British Heroes of the Holocaust—15 of whom were women—who went beyond the call of duty to save members of the Jewish community and others. Jane Haining was one of them. Born on a farm in Dunscore in Dumfriesshire, Jane was deeply committed to her faith and sacrificed her life for her ideals. It was her calling that took her away from her native Scotland, first to Budapest and finally to Auschwitz, where she perished.

Jane was appointed matron of the girls’ home of the Scottish Mission in Budapest, Hungary, in 1932. Refusing to abandon her children in the face of the rising Nazi threat, Jane was eventually arrested by the Gestapo in April 1944. Charged with working among Jews, as well as other supposed crimes, Jane Haining was deported to Auschwitz, where she became prisoner number 79467. Her last message to friends was a postcard asking for food. She ended her letter with the words:

“There is not much to report here on the way to heaven.”

Haining succumbed to starvation and the terrible conditions in the camp and died, probably on 17 July 1944. She was 47 years old. She was declared Righteous Among the Nations in Israel in 1997 and received the British Hero of the Holocaust medal in 2010.

But ordinary people also planned and executed the Holocaust. We do ourselves a disservice when we think they were all monsters: they were ordinary men and women like us—mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, with choices. Soldiers who participated in mass shootings of Jewish people in the east were not forced; they were not punished if they declined to participate. There was another group of ordinary people: bystanders—people who raised no objection to the horrors that befell their neighbours, who had no qualms when they bought the neighbours’ furniture and crockery or took over their homes. We all like to think that we would have stood up as one of the extraordinary, but it is important to realise that we all have the capacity to look the other way—or worse.

This will be one of the key themes explored in the planned UK Holocaust memorial and learning centre next to the Houses of Parliament. I have listened to a number of noble Lords on this issue, and there will be a time and a place to discuss it further in the future. We plan to provide visitors with what we believe to be a genuinely unique perspective by addressing the Holocaust through a British lens. While relating the whole story of the Holocaust in continental Europe, the exhibition will look particularly at what was known in Britain—far more than most people think—and what was done, or was not done, with that knowledge. It will look at the responses not only of the Government but of society, highlighting the power of communities’ and individuals’ choices to make a difference for good, or ill.

We remain committed to the creation of a new national memorial to honour the 6 million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust, and all other victims of Nazi persecution. Sadly, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when the Holocaust will pass from living reality and shared experience to memory and to history. That is why we have a duty to remember and why the new Holocaust memorial and learning centre is so important in keeping alive the memory of those murdered during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

We do Holocaust remembrance a disservice if we remember the dead and forget the present persecution of Jewish people across the world. The Community Security Trust—the CST—which we have heard about, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, and which monitors anti-Semitism in the UK, recorded, as she said, 786 anti-Semitic incidents from January to June. May 2021 saw a record high of such incidents, partly due, we think, to the Middle Eastern war. Without that conflict or influences of other factors such as the pandemic, the latest figures show that the base level of anti-Jewish hatred remains far too high and may even be worsening among young people. The noble Lord, Lord Mann, who is our adviser on anti-Semitism, highlighted this in his most recent report and recommended that secondary schoolchildren should be taught about the wrongs and consequences of contemporary anti-Semitism.

The latest figures on anti-Semitic incidents underscore the need for government to continue working with the Jewish community to ensure that synagogues, Jewish schools and communal buildings are afforded maximum protection, and we have already supplied over £14 million of government funding to make sure that that work happens. I am proud of my department and the many others in government that are supporting the Holocaust Educational Trust to work with universities across the country in challenging the scourge of anti-Semitism. However, as we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, and others, we need to do more.

Like many previous speakers, I pay tribute to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and its CEO, Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE, and her team, who delivered the annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony and thousands of other local activities across the country. Similarly, like many other noble Lords I thank the CEO of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock CBE, who as we have heard works tirelessly to ensure that the next generation learn of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust and can visit Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the very successful Lessons from Auschwitz programme. I want also to mention the UK Holocaust Map, an ongoing joint project with the Association of Jewish Refugees. The interactive map allows users to explore places relating to the victims, survivors and refugees of Nazism, as well as the rescuers, the liberators and the aid givers.

Despite our failure to learn the lessons of the past, we must not give up hope that one day we will see a world free from genocide, a world that fully grasps what happens when hatred, intolerance, prejudice and anti-Semitism is left unchecked and unchallenged. When we look at current conflicts across the globe, especially what is happening in Ukraine, it can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to humanity’s endless capacity for cruelty. It is sometimes tempting to believe that there is nothing we can do and that all of us have those doubts; but it is also in those moments that we must remember all those murdered during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides. We need to remember the survivors, the witnesses who have never given up, who continue to share their testimonies today. We owe it to all of them to remember.

My Lords, I thank everyone who has contributed to this debate. I will be brief but I want to say a couple of things.

This is the first time the House of Lords has had an opportunity to debate Holocaust Memorial Day, and it has been a very big success. I say with much love and affection to the Front Benches that this could become a regular part of the calendar. I will give some evidence for that. There is no padding in a speech on the Holocaust and Holocaust Memorial Day. You do not do it just to take up a little bit of time; it is well thought out and it comes from the heart, and that has been very clear today. It also says a lot about people as individuals and what is important to them. I do not want to sound too soppy, but I feel that I have got to know people a little bit better today. It is particularly effective when we talk about the impact on our families, as shown in the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Kestenbaum, and my noble friend Lady Altmann.

I will not mention everybody, but I refer in particular to speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kestenbaum, who talked about his experience in Ukraine. It struck me a little while into doing this job that the legacy of the Holocaust is a great gaping hole inside Europe. You see it particularly in Poland: the heart has been almost ripped out of that country. A noble Lord—forgive me, I cannot remember who—spoke about the people who would have been born, and all the possibilities.

I was talking to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, in the downstairs cloakroom before the debate. Like him, I was around when Holocaust Memorial Day began. It was essentially three men and a dog to start with, but gradually, we managed to get something going nationally. Now, there is not a community in the United Kingdom that will not have a commemoration involving schools. We do this not just because the Holocaust framed the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning of this century, but because the Holocaust speaks to us all.

That is why, following on from the Stockholm declaration, Malmö renewed that in 2021, and this next year is going to be enormously about dealing with Holocaust distortion. It is why the definitions that IHRA has put together, both in terms of anti-Semitism, Holocaust distortion and anti-Roma sentiment, are so important.

I thank noble Lords very much for their contributions, and look forward to this time next year—with a slightly longer debate.

Motion agreed.