My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Berridge on securing this debate, and I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the register.
Before today’s debate, I asked some Holocaust survivors for their thoughts on the increasing incidence of anti-Semitism. Survivor Manfred Goldberg told me:
“I recall politicians from right across the political spectrum committing themselves to policies which would ensure that such an avalanche of hatred could never, ever recur. I remember again and again hearing them utter emphatically ‘never again’ in their speeches. I truly did not dream that in my lifetime there could be such a thriving industry of Holocaust deniers. It is unbelievable while survivors are still alive. I just cannot comprehend how this denial momentum developed”.
Fellow survivor Mala Tribich MBE speaks at schools and organisations to pass on the message, which she insists each new generation has to understand, that racism, discrimination and intolerance have to be challenged by us all or we have learned nothing from history. She told me that at the end of World War II,
“when I was liberated from Bergen-Belsen, the revelation of what had been happening in the occupied countries to Jews brought about such worldwide revulsion that I thought anti-Semitism would be a thing of the past. Sadly, the irrational hatred of Jewish people has not disappeared, and the rise of anti-Semitism makes me fear for the future once more. As a Holocaust survivor, I am especially concerned that young people understand what prejudice and discrimination can lead to”.
Child survivor Eve Kugler told me:
“I am hugely concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism. For me, what began with signs everywhere in our German city warning ‘Jews forbidden here’ ended with the pogrom of Kristallnacht, the night when half a dozen Nazis invaded my home, arrested my father and consigned him to the concentration camp of Buchenwald. I cannot stress enough the fact that the increase in anti-Semitism is a danger not just to Jews but to everyone, a danger we ignore at our peril”.
That was the message I gave at the various Yom HaShoah ceremonies that I was recently honoured to address as a guest of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. I put on record my thanks to the board for its kind and generous hospitality and also my admiration for the wonderful work that its national director Wendy Kahn and her colleagues do to promote the Jewish community and its continuing and significant contribution to South Africa. I also thank the high commissioner to South Africa, Nigel Casey, for his support.
Like other noble Lords, I applaud the excellent work done to counter anti-Semitism in the UK by organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust and the Council of Christians and Jews. In conclusion, we must listen to survivors. As my noble friend Lord Polak reminded us, how we respond to the resurgence of the racist poison that is anti-Semitism says so much about our values. Only by standing in solidarity can we, together, defeat it.