Holocaust Memorial Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 26th January 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid Conservative, Bromsgrove 1:39 pm, 26th January 2023

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered Holocaust Memorial Day.

I thank Dame Margaret Hodge, my right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb and my hon. Friend Nicola Richards for co-sponsoring the debate. I pay tribute to the incredible people at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Holocaust Educational Trust and many others for the work that they are doing this week and all year round.

I am extremely honoured to be leading this debate. Usually, my lengthy speeches from the Back Benches are reserved for when I resign from the Government, so this is a welcome change. I could not think of a more important issue on which to speak and I am pleased to see so many hon. Members on both sides of the House here today. Tomorrow will mark the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—a place of evil, atrocity and inhumanity; a place where more than 1 million men, women and children arrived but never left. More than 6 million Jews and others lost their lives during the holocaust, and countless more would carry the burden of their persecution.

Genocide is a dark stain on the conscience of humanity, and the hatred that drives it is a disease of the heart. After the holocaust, we vowed, “Never again,” but the killing fields of Cambodia, the butchery of Rwanda, the deathly silence of Srebrenica and the suffering of Darfur show that the disease of hatred lives on. Although those dark stains can never be washed out, it is our duty to shine a light on them in this House.

It is also an honour for me to be the first Muslim to lead this debate from the Back Benches. My late friend, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, once said,

“The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognise God’s image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.”

At a time when I worry about communities becoming increasingly insular, and when too many young men and women are drawn to divisive voices, our responsibility is to spread the message of understanding and compassion between communities. That responsibility has never been greater.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ordinary people, but I will first mention a group of extraordinary people—the survivors of the holocaust. I have been privileged to know many of them during my time in Parliament, as have many other hon. Members on both sides of the House. When I was Chancellor, I invited 12 survivors to have dinner in 11 Downing Street; it was an evening that I will never forget. That night, my family was joined by the late, great Zigi Shipper, who was full of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. As we were showing him out, I recall that he pointed at me and, turning to my wife, said, “What are you doing with that rogue when you could be with me instead?” May his memory be a blessing.

Zigi saw the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau first hand, but as the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us, we should not forget that the crimes of that place were committed by, and to, ordinary people. As the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has said:

“Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Ordinary people turn a blind eye, believe propaganda, join murderous regimes”,

and ordinary people are persecuted

“simply because they…belong to a particular group”.