Education (Holocaust)

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:03 pm on 5th June 2008.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 5:03 pm, 5th June 2008

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-1960, in the name of Jackson Carlaw, on holocaust education in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament accepts the crucial importance of ensuring that the genocide of the Jewish and other peoples and minority groups inflicted during the Holocaust is never allowed to slip from public consciousness; welcomes the commitment of successive Scottish governments to developing a permanent National Holocaust Museum based in East Renfrewshire and looks forward to the fulfilment of that commitment; applauds the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, among other organisations, for the role it plays in educating young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons that can still be learned from it today, and considers that sufficient resources should be made available to allow schools across the west of Scotland and beyond to provide ongoing Holocaust education, with visits to the Auschwitz concentration camp being considered as part of that educational mix.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative 5:10 pm, 5th June 2008

I was born and raised in East Renfrewshire. In the early 1930s, my grandparents had settled in the emerging community of Whitecraigs and Newton Mearns, which is where my parents set up home and where I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. What became the family business developed on a site at Eglinton Toll in Glasgow, adjacent to the Gorbals area of the city. In that area, at the turn of the 20 th century, Scotland's future Jewish community arrived—a tale splendidly told in Ralph Glasser's "Growing Up in the Gorbals" and his subsequent three sequels. As the community prospered, it migrated south to Pollokshields and Shawlands and then, in the 1960s and afterwards, to suburbs such as Giffnock and Newton Mearns.

My parents had many Jewish friends and neighbours so, naturally, several of my childhood friends were Jewish too. As I speak now, I remember many of them vividly and with the greatest affection. I understood the persecution of the Jews in biblical terms and in an historical context but, in all my recollection, not once did I hear discussed these events or the raw grief for deeds that had been committed just 20 years earlier. I have never quite fully understood why. Perhaps there was a driven need to put it all behind them and to get on with life. Perhaps, too, there was a feeling that families everywhere had suffered one way or another. Perhaps, in those more innocent days, it was felt to be just too awful a burden for any child to bear.

Not until my teens did I become more generally aware of the Holocaust that had been perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Jacob Bronowski's landmark television documentary, "The Ascent of Man", ITV's "The World at War", which for the first time screened the raw images, and the Labour peer Lord Janner's personal testimony in Parliament all played a part in encouraging me to investigate for myself the crimes against humanity about which the wider world had been made aware in detail only on 29 November 1945 and 19 February 1946, when the American and Russian prosecution teams respectively screened evidential documentaries at Nuremberg before the 21 Nazi defendants and international opinion.

Dr G M Gilbert, the American psychiatrist in attendance at the trial, summarised the truly shocking footage:

"The acres of corpses of Russian POWs murdered or left to starve, the torture instruments, mutilated bodies, guillotines and baskets full of heads; bodies hanging from lamp posts; the ruins of Lidice; raped and murdered women, children with heads bashed in; the crematoria and gas chambers; the piles of clothes, the bales of women's hair at Auschwitz".

In the years since, it seems to me, Auschwitz has in some ways almost been misrepresented as the only centre of atrocity. Overlooked, it seems, are the 1.5 million to 2 million Jews who were shot in the occupied Soviet Union and all those others who perished in concentration camps such as Sobibór, all evidence of which the Nazis ruthlessly eliminated in their retreat. Indeed, had that retreat not become a rout, all trace of Auschwitz would, in all probability, have been similarly concealed.

Even now the detail of an event can strike a chord. Just 20 years ago, and some 43 years after the event, an episode that had remained shrouded, a testimony untranslated, became public. As a parent with two young sons of my own, I was certainly stopped short when I learned about it. On 20 April 1945—a day with which, unwittingly, most members will be familiar—Hitler made his final public appearance, which is recorded in a photograph in which, outside his bunker for the last time, he is seen caressing the face of a very young German boy who had been press-ganged into the final defence of Berlin. Even as he did so, and as British forces reached the outskirts of Hamburg, events unfolded that were recorded by the German author Gitta Sereny in a documentary that has still not been seen by any English-speaking audience.

A column of trucks coming from Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg delivered their loads at the door of an empty school building in the north of the city: 26 men, two women and 22 children. The children, boys and girls of mixed nationalities but all Jews, between four and 12 years old, had been used for medical experiments in Auschwitz. As Auschwitz was evacuated they had been transferred for the continuation and, if possible, completion of the experiments. However, time had run out. The SS knew that, alive, these children represented the most horrible evidence of their crimes. So, on that April afternoon, they took them into the large gymnasium of that Hamburg school, which had been equipped with looped ropes placed symmetrically 2m apart, and they hanged them. When they had finished with the children, they hanged the two French doctors and two Dutch nurses who had looked after them.

Children today are familiar with the events of the Holocaust. As my childhood friends' grandparents and parents who endured and survived depart this earth, we have resolved that the crime of mechanised murder and cruelty on an industrialised scale must never be forgotten. Nor should we be naive—it happened before the second world war, in Armenia, and afterwards, in Stalin's empire, in Cambodia and in Bosnia. It is happening today in Darfur and it will happen somewhere else soon.

The objective of our generation must be to do all that we can to commemorate the Jews, the disabled, Gypsies, homosexuals and others who were murdered by Hitler's regime, and to educate people against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. I welcome the work of successive Governments here and at Westminster, particularly during the past decade under Labour and the Liberal Democrats, to realise that ambition. Such work is also our duty in a Parliament that has no Jewish members. A community that was 48,000 strong at the end of the war has declined to some 17,000 members.

This is awkward, and I hope to say what I have to say in a measured way. I will never question a member's faith and it would take extraordinary events before I questioned a member's humanity. Division should play no part in our conduct in the Parliament in respect of our unity in the face of the challenge that is presented by the legacy of the Holocaust. Therefore, more in sorrow than in anger I must say that I deeply resent the implication of one member and his Westminster colleague that I, my colleagues or any members are less concerned that the lessons of the Holocaust be remembered. A few weeks ago, in response to a written question from my colleague Murdo Fraser, which queried the Barnett consequentials that arose from statements made at Westminster on the funding of trips to Auschwitz for school pupils in England, the Minister for Schools and Skills confirmed that the announcement

"did not generate additional funding for Scotland."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 16 May 2008; S3W-12776.]

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

Therefore, on 24 April the Parliament divided on a false premise. Lurid letters were sent and offensive suggestions about the character of members were made to the media and to the Jewish community in Scotland—

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

To add insult to injury, the canard is being repeated at Westminster, where a misleading and inaccurate motion has been tabled. That is a poor show. There has been an abdication of taste and character—

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I believe that it is not in order for the Parliament to be inadvertently or deliberately misled. For clarification, will you rule on this? The word "additional" was used carefully to imply that there were no Barnett consequentials, and I ask the member to reflect on that. The minister

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

That is a point of debate, not a point of order.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

Notwithstanding what has happened, I am delighted to pay tribute to the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and to confirm that education authorities throughout the West of Scotland region that I represent have confirmed to me in writing that they have no plans to downgrade the quality or breadth of their education of young people about the Holocaust, and that they will continue visits by school pupils to Auschwitz, when they consider that appropriate. In particular, the East Renfrewshire community is keen to be the operational base for the proposed national Holocaust museum. I would be grateful if the minister updated us on the proposal's status.

No political party has moral superiority on the matter. This is not a competition. What purpose would be served by a competition? Members of the Parliament have a collective duty to play our part in a wider, sustained national effort to commemorate victims and survivors of the Holocaust and to ensure that lessons—clear and undiminished—are passed down to future generations. Whatever party games are played, I think that all members acknowledge that shared responsibility. If we are united in that resolve, we will not fail.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 5:18 pm, 5th June 2008

I congratulate Jackson Carlaw on securing the debate and on packing so much detail into so short a time.

The Holocaust, or Shoah, was undoubtedly one of the foulest crimes ever committed in human history—the mass murder of 6 million men, women and children solely because they were Jewish or part-Jewish. Jews were murdered not only in the most bestial ways but on an industrial scale and by industrial means. Half of the Holocaust's victims died in wholesale massacres, starved or were beaten to death; the others were murdered in facilities that had been built specifically for that purpose.

Four extermination centres were established in occupied Poland: at Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka. From 8 December 1941 to October 1943, when Sobibór was closed after an heroic revolt by prisoners, an estimated 1.7 to 2 million Jews were killed, the vast majority by gassing.

The system that the Nazis perfected took prisoners directly from the trains that transported them—usually in cattle trucks—and, under the guise of sending them to shower and be disinfected, packed them into gas chambers to be asphyxiated by carbon monoxide or Zyklon B gas in excruciating pain lasting 15 to 30 minutes. The bodies of the victims were burned or buried. No work was gleaned from the victims; the Nazis, fixated on slaughter, were interested only in destruction. In total, only 106 prisoners of the death camps, who had been forced to work on the sorting of possessions and the disposal of corpses, are known to have survived the war.

The names of those extermination centres are not widely known. The one that is known was the largest and most notorious of all—Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was originally built to house Polish political prisoners, 70,000 of whom were to die there, and to destroy through labour Soviet prisoners of war, of whom 10,000 perished. Auschwitz became a huge slave labour camp and extermination centre. About 23,000 Roma and Sinti, and at least a million Jewish people died there. The overwhelming majority, including the old, infirm and children, were selected for destruction immediately on arrival. The rest were killed more slowly by beating, hanging, shooting and further selections or in gruesome medical experiments carried out by Nazi doctors. The terror of people who died so horribly or survived each day in squalor, enduring back-breaking toil while knowing that their loved ones had been destroyed, cannot be comprehended.

A few thousand prisoners survived the hell of Auschwitz following liberation on 27 January 1945, a date which has become Holocaust memorial day. Their testimonies have told us much of what we know today. I visited Auschwitz in February this year. It was a moving and overwhelming experience. The scale of the Birkenau site, where up to 140,000 prisoners were barracked, 774 to a block and in full view of the crematoria, is astonishing. Stalin once callously remarked that a million deaths is a statistic, but one death is a tragedy. At Auschwitz, that is brought home directly. The histories, photographs and testimonies of individual victims tell of the suffering and torment that each and every person who was incarcerated there—murdered or survived—went through and show the enormity of the Nazi crimes and the catastrophe that engulfed the Jewish people.

Auschwitz, the other death camps and concentration camps and the persecution of the Jewish people, recent and historic, cannot be forgotten if they are never to be repeated. We must recall the unwillingness of many nations, including the western democracies, to permit substantial Jewish immigration from Nazi-threatened and occupied Europe, even during the war. Scottish schools have opportunities to study the Holocaust and visit Auschwitz if local authorities and schools deem that to be appropriate. That can be done not least as part of the new emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of individuals and nations, through the forthcoming religious and moral education outcomes, which will foster the development of values, beliefs and attitudes, and through the social studies outcomes, which include the study of history.

There has never been a specific fund in Scotland for visits to Auschwitz. The Scottish Government works with the Holocaust Educational Trust to ensure that children are educated on the Holocaust. The Government will provide £25,500 to Renfrewshire Council to host next year's Holocaust memorial day, on the anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation, and it has offered to provide £750,000—half the required funding—for a Holocaust museum in East Renfrewshire, should it progress.

Scotland has never had anti-Semitic laws. We are a tolerant society and I hope that future generations will learn from our tolerance, which we intend to inculcate in them.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 5:22 pm, 5th June 2008

I welcome the opportunity to make a short speech and I thank Jackson Carlaw for lodging the motion.

Several years ago, I led a delegation of young people on a visit to Poland. Many of them were interested in the history of the Holocaust and wished to see locations where some of the atrocities took place. At that time, our Polish hosts were less than keen to take us and we respected that, but that had an effect on me and I vowed that, at some point, I would return to look at the sites. I had the opportunity to do so earlier this year, during the Easter recess.

As Kenny Gibson will know, nothing can prepare you for the sights in Auschwitz. When you come off the bus or train, the buildings look normal and are at the end of a town. There is beautiful workmanship in the red brick buildings—they are not the ramshackle huts that we might expect. The sign above the entrance says "Work makes you free." Believe it or not, there are art deco touches on the tiles and in other areas, which is absolutely at odds with the horror of what went on there. The beautiful copperplate script of the meticulous records that were kept of the individuals who went through the place hides the horror that the pages describe.

As you move round, you see display cases full of spectacles, clothes, shoes and suitcases, all taken from inmates. Then you see the living conditions—the straw on the floor in areas where people slept and the bunks that are three high. You see the gas chambers themselves and, perhaps most shocking of all, a wall of human hair that was taken from people who died there, to be used to make textiles. You have to pinch yourself to remember that, just as the Parliament celebrated yesterday the 60th anniversary of the national health service, it is not much longer than 60 years ago that those horrors took place.

We must remember that, as Kenny Gibson and Jackson Carlaw pointed out, others were persecuted in addition to the Jews—the Poles, the Czechs, the Hungarians and the Russians. Each has their own memorial in Auschwitz that descendants of families from those nations and others can visit. Also persecuted were the Roma—not just the original Gypsies or Travelling people, but many who were well-to-do families. Many had their children taken from them, and subsequently those children were taken from the usually Catholic children's homes that they were in to the camps, despite the best efforts of the churches to save them. It is poignant when we realise that, only a few weeks ago, we heard reports of Roma being persecuted in another European country.

When I was at Auschwitz, I saw children, young people and families of all nationalities. Many of the young people had what I would describe as the typical teenage swagger on their way into the memorials, but they were quieter as they went round. Many were in tears and angry by the time they came out, and all of them were changed for ever as a result of what they had seen.

Believe it or not, I am not all that interested in where the money comes from, where it goes or how it gets there. However, if there is one thing that we can do, surely it is not too much to ask that we ensure that Scottish young people have the opportunity to go and see what happened and to be thankful that it was not their parents—although in some instances, of course, it will have been their relatives—and country-folk who suffered. I make a plea to the Government to consider how our schools can be supported to send our young people to Auschwitz and how we can give them the education to ensure that we both remember and acknowledge the record on human rights of all those who stood against the atrocities. We must ensure that such atrocities never happen again.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party 5:27 pm, 5th June 2008

I welcome the debate and congratulate Jackson Carlaw on securing it.

I am sure that there is a consensus that education about the Holocaust should ensure that future generations in Scotland understand the tragedy that took place and understand how cruel and callous the human race can be.

I will not go into all the details of Jackson Carlaw's motion, and I am afraid that I will not go into Ken Macintosh's amendment, which I thought was rather unfortunate, but I particularly agree with the final part of the motion, which begins:

"and considers that sufficient resources".

Like other MSPs, I have been to Auschwitz. I was there in 2000 as part of an InterRail trip to eastern Europe. I will come back to that in a moment. Auschwitz is approximately an hour from Kraków, which is a major city and the cultural capital of Poland. There were three camps at Auschwitz. In June 1940, the Auschwitz concentration camp was established, when the Nazis took it over; in October 1941, Birkenau was established; and in 1942, the Monowitz concentration camp, which was a munitions factory, was established.

Thankfully, in 1947, the new Polish Government decided to create the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Everyone who has been to Auschwitz will recognise that that was an important decision and an important landmark in teaching people about the history of that location. Auschwitz receives about 500,000 visitors every year and it is free to enter, which is vital, because it ensures that more people have the opportunity to see for themselves the atrocities that happened.

As I mentioned a moment ago, I have been to Auschwitz and also the Birkenau camp. The strangest thing for me was walking through the gates under the sign "Arbeit macht frei". The first accent that I heard was a German accent. It did not freak me out, but I was a wee bit taken aback, then within half a second I was delighted it was a German accent. Some German kids were there to learn about the atrocities that happened.

We have already heard this evening about the atrocities, and I will not repeat what has been said, but I am sure that members who have visited Auschwitz-Birkenau will agree with what I am about to say. The first thing that people notice when they walk about the two camps is the silence, and the second thing that they notice is the terrible atmosphere. Cathy Jamieson mentioned people who swagger as they go in and are in tears when they are there—I fully agree with that observation.

The worst part of the visit for me was the gas chamber—going into it and seeing how people died in such a cruel and callous way. I do not think that anyone could forgive the Nazis for what they did there.

I encourage people to go to Auschwitz, Dachau or any of the other camps that still exist. It is important that not only this generation but future generations learn about what happened in the past and about how cruel and callous the human race can be when people have total control over others. Everyone in Europe should go there. I welcome the money that the United Kingdom provided earlier this year. I also welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is working with the Holocaust Educational Trust to make progress.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour 5:31 pm, 5th June 2008

Members' business debates are usually non-contentious affairs, and I had hoped that today would be similarly consensual. However, after hearing Mr Carlaw's ungracious and typically belligerent remarks, I feel that that might be unlikely.

Like others, I was given the unforgettable opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. I have had the even more moving experience of hearing first hand of the Nazi death camps from several survivors, some of whom are now my neighbours and friends, living in East Renfrewshire, in modern Scotland. To this day, I never fail to be struck by the generosity and humanity of those survivors—not the bitterness that one might expect from those who have experienced the most inhumane of ordeals.

I do not claim to have a monopoly of compassion or even of appreciation of the importance of ensuring that future generations learn about the Holocaust. However, I find it somewhat ironic to be in this situation. It is a bittersweet moment to speak in a members' business debate on the subject six weeks after Parliament voted down £150,000 to pay for senior pupils across Scotland to visit Auschwitz.

I have been to every Holocaust day national event in Scotland, and I can say unequivocally that I was impressed most by the one that was organised and held by the young people of Fife in January 2007. Those who were there will remember the torchlight procession through the middle of Kirkcaldy, the Anne Frank festival and the sculpture, but most of all they will remember, like me, that it was organised entirely by pupils. Not just the memorial day but three weeks of events were organised by pupils from three Fife high schools because they had visited Auschwitz and taken it upon themselves to share that experience with others.

Like the motion, I do not claim that visits to Auschwitz are the only way to learn about the Holocaust. As such, I have long been a supporter of former First Minister Jack McConnell's idea of establishing a permanent Holocaust education centre or museum in Scotland.

I have also been a supporter of making Holocaust teaching packs available to every school in Scotland. I ask the minister why those packs are not being updated. Does she not want to record the testimony of other Scottish survivors so that pupils can appreciate how immediate the lessons of the Holocaust are for us in Scotland? I do not find acceptable the answer to my parliamentary questions that

"There are no plans to update the Holocaust teaching packs".—[Official Report, Written Answers, 8 February 2008; S3W-9612.]

The minister should make some plans. Holocaust education material should be on the web and on compact disk, and it should be refreshed and updated.

Most of all, although it is not the only way to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, I cannot believe that the Administration, supported by the Conservative party and the Greens, voted down funding to support senior pupils across Scotland visiting Auschwitz. I still do not understand why members of the Tory party voted in that way. To be fair, both Liz Smith and Murdo Fraser were sympathetic in their contributions to that debate, but instead of realising the error of their ways and doing something about it, we find the Tories' Mr Carlaw lodging a motion that commits to nothing. Chutzpah is a Jewish word that has gained common usage in English. It means cheek, gall, a brass neck or brazen manner, and that is exactly what we have seen from Mr Carlaw today.

It is not enough to have a debate on a members' business motion at the end of the day, when there will be no vote and when no commitment from the Government is called for. We need action and funding. The Scottish Government has been given the funding; we have the Barnett consequentials and we should use them. We should not hide behind the word "additional". The Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture made it clear in her summing-up speech in the debate on 24 April that we have had Barnett consequentials and that we have new Barnett consequentials.

Disappointed as I was by the vote six weeks ago, and although there is a certain schadenfreude in seeing Mr Carlaw's political discomfort, I have two constructive suggestions for the minister, to which I hope that she will reply positively.

First, I would like the minister to look again at finding the money to support the visits; it is not a huge sum of money and it could make a big impact. At the very least, will she agree to meet representatives of the Holocaust Educational Trust when they visit the Parliament in two weeks' time?

Secondly, will the minister revisit her answer to my question on updating holocaust teaching packs? She would do Scotland a service if she were to commission further work not only to update the teaching packs, but to record the testimony of survivors living in our communities today, who could open our eyes to the cruelty of which civilized people are capable.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative 5:36 pm, 5th June 2008

One of the most moving presentations that I heard during my former career as a teacher was about Auschwitz. It was deeply moving not only because of the vivid and sensitive description of what the pupils had seen on their visit, but because of its profound effect, which became clear when they assessed what the trip meant to them as human beings. It was a life-changing experience, so there is no doubt in my mind that educating youngsters about the Holocaust is not only an important lesson in history but one that is extremely valuable when it comes to understanding the many human conflicts that affect our world today, especially those that are so complex in relation to inequality and racism. As Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

"The Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz Course is such a vital part of our work exactly because it gives students the chance to understand more the dangers and potential effects of prejudice and racism today."

I understand why visits to the locations are a far better learning experience than anything that could happen in a classroom, especially when they include hearing real-life accounts from the survivors of the Holocaust. I have been more than persuaded of the need to allow as many pupils as possible from throughout my constituency area to take part in those visits, although I am also clear that how teachers and pupils engage in Holocaust education should be a matter for the individual school to decide. In that respect, I caution the Government against becoming overprescriptive.

With regard to Mr Macintosh's comments, it is unfortunate that a political judgment is being made in this debate—it should not be about politics. There are some unnecessary debates about Barnett consequentials and whether they exist; it is a great pity that the tone of the debate has been clouded by that.

Jackson Carlaw's motion makes clear our support for the commitment of successive Governments to developing a national Holocaust museum based in East Renfrewshire. Like the outstanding work that is undertaken by the Holocaust Educational Trust, such a museum could help to ensure a permanent reminder to us all of the horrors of that period in history and, more important, a permanent reminder of the need for reconciliation in future generations. Together with the priceless value of Holocaust education in the school curriculum, that is why such projects are so important for this country's heritage and why the motion, so eloquently moved by Jackson Carlaw, is important both in its praise for what has already been achieved and in relation to what can, I hope, be achieved in the future.

Photo of Christopher Harvie Christopher Harvie Scottish National Party 5:39 pm, 5th June 2008

In 1960s Germany a friend of mine, who was Scots, was asked by a girl about Hitler and whether she had heard of him. Until after 1968 there was a certain amnesia in Germany about the period after 1871, which was when German history stopped in the schools in many of the Länder. Finding out about what had happened between 1933 and 1945 tended to be, to an extent, a re-exploration of the place, given American serials and the effects of 1968. Members might remember the famous French right-wing attack on Daniel Cohn-Bendit—"He is only a German Jew"—to which the Paris students in the streets replied, "Nous sommes tous juifs allemands," or, "We are all German Jews". Of course, Mr Cohn-Bendit is now a leading European politician in Strasbourg.

My own university and area of Tübingen in south Germany did not have a creditable career. A fount of lawyers and medical men, the university was rabidly anti-semitic. Moreover, it was one of the places where a degree of mass nazification occurred.

About 12 miles from Tübingen, there is a place called Grafeneck. Some members who have been to Auschwitz might well have come across the name, because, in 1940, 11,000 of the so-called unfit were gassed there. At that point, the operation stopped. However, even though it is exceptionally beautiful, one still senses a terrible chill about the place.

I imagine that, had I been in Tübingen at that time, I would have said, "Ich bin Hase und ich weiß gar nichts daran," or, "I am only a rabbit and know nothing about what is going on." Of course, that was a survival mechanism against a regime of what George Orwell called

"gangsters and shiny bottomed bureaucrats", who would simply whack the head off anyone who opposed them. One has to realise the gangsterish nature of the regime and, indeed, what it did to Germany's own culture. After all, these people produced Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Freud, Einstein, the painter Liebermann, film directors such as Billy Wilder and novelists such as Joseph Roth—one of the greatest writers of the 20th century who, appalled by the onset of nationalism and aware of what was going to come, drank himself to death in Paris in 1939.

At times such as this, I think of people such as David Daiches, probably our greatest literary scholar and the son of the rabbi of Edinburgh, and my old friend Bill Fishman, who fought against Oswald Mosley in Cable Street and was delighted to end the war as a sergeant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders—indeed, he was one of the original Whitechapel highlanders. They had to cope with knowing that six million of their people had died, and did so with remarkable tolerance. Of course, people such as Martin Buber reinforced ideas of religion in the war's dreadful aftermath.

Again, at such times, I also think of Wordsworth's poem "The Old Cumberland Beggar", in which he pleads for tolerance of even the least humanised part of society and makes it clear that we are all judged by our treatment of the man who slouches from village to village and is unable even to look up at the stars. That is what young Germans nowadays feel about the situation, partly through their acquaintance with the past, and is what we must all consider now and in future.

Photo of John Park John Park Labour 5:43 pm, 5th June 2008

I congratulate Jackson Carlaw on securing this debate and welcome the many comments that have been made on the importance of holocaust education.

I have never been to Auschwitz; however, in 1985, while at primary school, I visited the Anne Frank house and museum in Amsterdam. Living in today's modern society, one really cannot imagine how that family, under such a threat, could hide in those cramped conditions. Indeed, I cannot quantify the visit's impact on me and my school friends. The house's history, the significance of the events that took place there and the story of the family all left a long, deep mark on that group of youngsters and changed for good our outlook on a number of matters. The experience certainly helped me to form opinions about many aspects of the wider world and taught me the importance of understanding and tolerance. When I visited the house again two or three years ago, I was amazed at how the exhibition has been developed. It sounds out a powerful message and I encourage as many people as possible to visit it.

Of course, that is not possible for everyone, which is why I was pleased by the launch last month of the Anne Frank Trust's first permanent educational programme for Scotland. Using a series of travelling exhibitions and educational workshops, the project aims to challenge prejudice and reduce hatred, and to encourage young people of all backgrounds and communities to embrace positive attitudes, responsibility and respect for others.

Ken Macintosh mentioned the Anne Frank and you festival that ran in Fife last year, but he did not say that it attracted more than 8,000 people—a significant number, especially given that it was held in the cold month of January—to the various events, which included exhibitions, plays and education seminars that captured the imagination of young Fifers and their families.

The new project will specifically address racism, prejudice towards newly arrived communities and the sectarianism that continues to be a problem in parts of Scotland. It aims to reach an audience of at least 15,000 young people every year. I particularly welcome the proposed activity on sectarianism and newly arrived communities because, if we are completely honest, those are still major issues across communities in Scotland.

Just as the Scottish Parliament provides an opportunity—which Westminster does not—for people to see at first hand how a Parliament works while promoting citizenship and democracy, I believe that the launch in Scotland of the Anne Frank educational programme will provide an opportunity for school children not just to learn about the horror of the Holocaust, but to gain an appreciation of the importance of understanding, tolerance and the need to reduce hatred in a modern, outward-looking Scotland. I am sure that no member would disagree that such an approach is desirable.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party 5:46 pm, 5th June 2008

I offer apologies on behalf of Stewart Maxwell, who stayed for Jackson Carlaw's speech but was not able to stay longer.

I congratulate Jackson Carlaw on securing the debate and on his powerful and thought-provoking speech. A debate on Holocaust education in Scotland provides an opportunity for the Parliament to reflect on the horrors of that period in history and to consider our role in ensuring that, through education, it never happens again.

As Jackson Carlaw said, our Jewish communities have lived here for many years—they were one of Scotland's first immigrant communities. Their contribution to our national life has been significant; they are, indeed, one of the threads in the tartan of Scottish society.

Scotland's commitment to recognise all people as equals was demonstrated as long ago as 1320, when it was woven into the declaration of Arbroath, which said that, regardless of race or religion,

"There is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman".

The Scottish Government recognises the distinctive character and history of our Jewish community. We understand the paramount importance for all the people of Scotland of commemorating the Holocaust.

Of course it is important to remember the atrocities that Europe's Jewish communities experienced during the terrible period that we now refer to as the Holocaust but, as several members have mentioned, other communities also suffered, and it is important that that, too, is remembered. Disabled people, Gypsies, and members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities lost their lives in large numbers, and our Holocaust memorial day commemorations in Scotland have always remembered them, too.

We also remember other holocausts and genocides of more recent times, such as those in Bosnia and Rwanda. Disturbingly, even the unbelievable horror of the Holocaust was not enough to stop people again trying to eliminate an entire community or ethnic group. There can be no stronger message about why we must remember and why we must educate young people on the need to ensure that such events never happen again.

The visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau that are organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust, to which I have been speaking, are one of a number of excellent opportunities that are provided for young people to learn about the Holocaust. I would like to make it clear that this Government has certainly not refused funding for such school visits. On the contrary, we have provided record funding and freed up local authority budgets for education. As Jackson Carlaw and others have said, the United Kingdom announcement did not generate additional funding for Scotland at the time; the Treasury has confirmed that. Furthermore, the previous Scottish Administration did not provide schools with any funding for visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I agree with Liz Smith that schools should be able to make their own judgments on the matter.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

In a previous debate, the minister's colleague suggested that we received a Barnett consequential of £152,000 a year. Is the minister saying that, since the recent announcement, we no longer receive a Barnett consequential for Holocaust education trips?

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

We did not receive a Barnett consequential for the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Learning about the Holocaust can and does take place on other school visits and in other contexts, such as on visits to the Jewish Museum in Berlin to examine racist behaviour and to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, which John Park mentioned, to learn about forced migration. It is schools' prerogative to decide the best way for their pupils to learn about the Holocaust. Many more children and young people visit concentration camps through other means that schools promote. Together with the Holocaust Educational Trust visits, those visits are valuable. As most members have said, such visits are life changing.

In addition to supporting Holocaust memorial day every year since 2001 and making a commitment to support a national commemoration day in January 2009, the Scottish Government has provided school resources for Holocaust education and has funded the production of "Testimony"—an exhibition about the Holocaust that provides a powerful and emotive experience and which includes personal testimonies of Scotland's survivors. "Testimony" can be used in schools or in other locations such as community centres and libraries to raise awareness about the Holocaust's reality.

The Scottish Government was happy to confirm the previous Administration's commitment to support a permanent Holocaust museum, to which the motion refers. I understand that the Jewish community has reconsidered that proposal and that it intends to suggest an alternative option. We will obviously wish to consider any new proposal carefully.

Our work on commemorating the Holocaust is part of our wider work to tackle racism, religious intolerance and all forms of discrimination, as John Park said. The story of the Holocaust provides the most powerful example of the terrible things that can happen when racism and religious intolerance are taken to extremes. However, every day in Scotland, people experience abuse, discrimination and disadvantage because of their faith, skin colour or ethnic background. Racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination damage individuals, communities and Scotland as a whole. We know the importance of ensuring that our young people understand those issues and we will do all that we can to create a fairer Scotland for them to inherit.

Meeting closed at 17:53.