Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

Activists behind the “disgraceful” attack on Jewish students at a university are “neo-fascists”, Sir Eric Pickles has said.

The Conservative former communities secretary suggested the scenes which disrupted a meeting at King’s College London shared similarities with 1938’s Kristallnacht, also known as Night of Broken Glass, when Nazis attacked Jewish people and their property.

Sir Eric was referring to disruption at an event organised by the KCL Israel Society and LSE Israel Society, in which politician Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, appeared. 

Speaking in the Commons, the UK’s post-Holocaust envoy said: “(Labour MP Wes Streeting) mentioned that we travelled together to France in the autumn of last year to look at anti-Semitism there and I vividly recall meeting with Jewish students and their talk of how frightened they were, of how wary they were on campuses.

“I can’t help but reflect at the disgraceful attack upon Jewish students in King’s College in London just two nights ago, where a peaceful meeting – literally about peace – was broken up with obscenities and with the breaking of a window and the breaking of glass and the offering of violence.

“Frankly, we’ve seen this before – we have seen broken glass, we have seen Crystal Night and if we need to know where the neo-fascists are then they truly represent the neo-fascists in that attack that occurred in King’s College.”

Leading a debate on Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Streeting (Ilford North) recalled how he cried when he read about the suffering of the LGBT community who were persecuted by the Nazis during a visit to Berlin last summer.

He also told MPs: “‘Never again’ is a common refrain at events to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, but I’m afraid these words ring hollow.

“‘Never again’ will only find meaning when Jews can live freely and safely in all parts of the world. ‘Never again’ will only find meaning when difference and diversity is celebrated rather than denigrated. ‘Never again’ will only find meaning when genocide is confined to history.”

Local government minister Marcus Jones said the debate was “just as much about remembering other genocides as it is about Jewish persecution”.

He stressed the need to educate people on the events of the past to ensure the lives of those who suffered are not forgotten.

“Education has the power to bring communities together,” he said.

“Holocaust education matters. It brings to life the names, the memories, the identities of those who suffered.

“But none of this would be possible without the dedication of the survivors and their families who visit schools and communities up and down the country, urging us to take a stand against hatred and prejudice.”

Mr Jones closed his speech by warning of the danger of complacency and of the need to challenge prejudice.

He said: “It is clear from the contributions that have been made today in this House that we can never be complacent, especially today when we continue to see the growth of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe and on our own shores.”