Progressively Speaking: Challenging the 5% of Brits who deny the Shoah
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here
Analysis

Progressively Speaking: Challenging the 5% of Brits who deny the Shoah

If five percent of Brits doubt the Holocaust took place, who will put them right?

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith
Students on the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET)/UJS Lessons from Auschwitz Universities Project, visiting Auschwitz. Photo credit: Yakir Zur
Students on the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET)/UJS Lessons from Auschwitz Universities Project, visiting Auschwitz. Photo credit: Yakir Zur

On 27 January, a man in his 80s named Gordon Spencer lit the memorial candle for Barnet Borough’s Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) commemoration.

Gordon, a member of our Alyth Synagogue, was born Gunther Spiegel in Wurzburg, Bavaria, in 1930.

He came to Britain with his mother in August 1939, a month before the Second World War broke out. His father had already escaped to London on his release from incarceration in Dachau. All the rest of his family was murdered in the Shoah.

How insulting it is to people like Gordon, and their descendants, to know, as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s independently conducted survey found, that five percent of their fellow Britons doubt the Shoah took place. Equally maddening is that 12 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed say they think the numbers murdered have been exaggerated.

Unfortunately, Gordon, and the Jewish people he represents, are not alone. At the same Barnet HMD ceremony, Fidelis Mironko, from the Rwandan Embassy, spoke about the challenge of denial in his country regarding the murder of 800,000 of his fellow Rwandans by their mostly Hutu countrymen.

Earlier in the year, I went with Remembering Srebrenica and the Joseph Interfaith Foundation to Bosnia where we, as a group of Jews and Muslims visiting together, were told that Bosnian Muslims are also having to deal with the insult of denial of what happened to them during the genocidal murder of nearly 10,000 people that took place in 1995.

Denial of the awful reality of genocide is a shared experience of oppressed people. To challenge denial, we must engage in education and sharing experience the length and breadth of the country.

The Holocaust Education Trust and others ensure Shoah education is nationwide, and we should join with others who have experienced both genocide and its subsequent denial.

It requires multiple record-keeping, in addition to the records at Yad Vashem. In our synagogue, we keep our own book recording the Shoah experiences of our members’ families – when secondary schools visit here, we can show them the Holocaust was the real experience of their neighbours.

  • Mark Goldsmith serves Alyth Synagogue
Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more:
comments