Government funds Auschwitz trips for university students

Government funds Auschwitz trips for university students

Communities minister welcomes 'powerful tool' for tackling campus anti-Semitism with new £144,000 grant

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid

The Government has said it will fund a £144,000 project that extends the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Auschwitz programme to universities for the first time.

Under the plan, 200 university students from across the country will visit the former Nazi death camp and return to lead seminars in an effort to target anti-Semitism on campus. Currently the HET works mainly with schools and colleges.

The new money comes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Education, and the programme will be jointly delivered by the HET and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS).

“These resources will enable a substantial expansion of student and university leaders receiving the training needed to combat anti-Semitism on campus,” said UJS president Josh Holt.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said Holocaust education was “one of the most powerful tools we have to fight bigotry,” adding that the new programme would “tackle anti-Semitism, intolerance and prejudice on university campuses”.

Just days before this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, the announcement was made at a Holocaust Educational Trust dinner on Tuesday night, where the BBC’s Nick Robinson spoke, and Holt said it was in part a response to recent events.

“Sadly we have seen a distressing increase in swastika graffiti, Holocaust denial literature and politicisation of the Holocaust on some UK campuses,” he said.

“We are determined to combat this and welcome this significant contribution to our longstanding work bringing students of all faiths and backgrounds together to create cohesive campus communities.”

HET chief executive Karen Pollock agreed, saying: “Anti-Semitism remains a real challenge on campus and tackling it is crucial… We know how important it is to support those people on the frontline dealing with it day in day out.”

She added that the students’ specialised course “will include taking student and university leaders to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau so that they can see with their own eyes where anti-Semitism has led in the past”.

The Board of Deputies welcomed the news. A spokesman said: “HET and UJS have been facilitating visits to former Nazi concentration camps for some years now, and with tangible effects, because the only way to fight prejudice is through education.”

He added: “This new funding will make a material difference by enabling students to learn about the tragedy of the Holocaust with their own eyes, which is the most effective means of education. The Secretary of State is to be congratulated for committing funding to this important project.”

Since 1994, more than 34,000 students and teachers have taken part in the HET’s ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ project, which is based on the premise that “hearing is not like seeing,” but until now it has only been open to 16-18 year olds, most of whom have been sixth-formers.

HET leaders said they hoped that the 200 university students attending the new programme would return to run seminars for up to 7,500 students across the UK.

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “We warmly welcome the announcement of the Government’s support for the expansion of the Scheme to support universities in tackling anti-Semitism on campus.”

“This issue was raised by the UJS president at the JLC’s annual meeting with the Prime Minister in September, and we are delighted that there has been concrete output from that meeting and that this important work to continue combatting racism and prejudice on campus will be expanded.”

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