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Holocaust Memorial Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:40 pm on 24th January 2019.

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Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Labour, Wolverhampton South East 2:40 pm, 24th January 2019

No words—certainly none that I have—can describe adequately the horror of the Holocaust, the attempt to wipe out the Jewish population of Europe, the killing of Roma, gay people, trade unionists and many other victims of Nazi ideology. As this debate has shown over the last couple of hours, what brings it home are the human stories showing how real it was on an individual level. A life is a life.

Like many Members of this House on all sides, tomorrow I will take part in commemoration events for Holocaust Memorial Day, one in Wolverhampton and one in Dudley. I pay tribute not only to the wonderful and moving opening speech today but to the tremendous work over a longer period of my hon. Friend Ian Austin. Year after year, he has organised a very moving and well-attended event in his constituency aimed at teaching today’s young generation about the horrors of the past. He has spoken up bravely against antisemitism and alongside a number of my hon. Friends has stood up for the best of what my party should stand for at a time when sadly that has not always been easy.

I also pay tribute to the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. These organisations do amazing work. The latter records the testimony of those who survived, arranges speakers in schools and enables pupils to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau in what is a life-changing experience for them. I am pleased to say that schools in my constituency—Colton Hills, Moseley Park, the Ormiston SWB Academy and the Royal Wolverhampton School—have all taken part in the past year. These events are valuable and important. They not only benefit those who take part directly but allow students to share the experience with others. Most of all, they show to a new generation the terrible and appalling consequences of where race hatred and the demonisation of those who are different can lead. I am pleased that support for the Holocaust Educational Trust is bipartisan and has survived several changes of Government. Long may that continue.

This is also a moment to reflect on our own politics. It is estimated that 70,000 refugees came to the UK from the rest of Europe in the years running up to the war, including children saved through the Kindertransport programme. Yes, the UK could have done more during the war, but surely today we have to ask questions about our own debate on refugees. It has become too easy to talk about refugees in a way that strips them of their humanity and ascribes to them some darker, ulterior motive, and it has become too easy to say they should go anywhere but here. No one has done more to emphasise the common humanity of refugees than our colleague Lord Alf Dubs, himself a child of the Kindertransport. He is an inspiration and has provided through his life and work and campaigning a timely reminder that every life matters and that we are all diminished if we look the other way.

This is also a moment to stand strong against the politics of hate, which seeks to demonise any group or community on the basis of race, faith or both. The antisemitic abuse that is routinely posted online, including to Members of this House, is not only unacceptable in itself but a warning of what happens when people ascribe great virtue to themselves and those who agree with them but show a closed and hostile mind to others, when people have a hierarchy of victimhood, where some are allowed to be victims but others are not. These are the permission slips for cruelty that have so scarred our politics and allowed hatred to grow. As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, let us remember the common value of humanity. A life is a life, no matter a person’s colour, background, wealth or whatever else, and each life must be valued. That is the lesson of the events we mark this weekend.