Shoah educator says politicians must be ‘careful about the language they use’
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Shoah educator says politicians must be ‘careful about the language they use’

President of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, James Smith, sounds warning about the rhetoric used surrounding the Brexit debate

Boris Johnson addresses a tense House of Commons (UK Parliament/PA Wire)
Boris Johnson addresses a tense House of Commons (UK Parliament/PA Wire)

Britain’s national Holocaust centre in Nottinghamshire has warned politicians to tone down the rhetoric or risk stoking racism, as Boris Johnson’s language over Brexit comes under intense scrutiny.

The caution was issued by James Smith, president of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, amid warnings of rising antisemitism and white nationalism in the UK.

Johnson has been accused of inflating tensions in the country by his use of terms such as “surrender” and “betrayal” in relation to MPs and judges whose actions have stymied his government’s plans to force through a no-deal Brexit if necessary.

Noting the UK’s “somewhat divided society,” Smith said: “The growth of ideas that contributed to the Holocaust, such as white nationalism and antisemitism, are alive and well today.

“A quarter of a century ago we were creating this centre as a warning from history. If we’d known then that these ideas would be on the rise in the UK in 2019 we would have been aghast.”

He added that “politicians have to show leadership on this issue and they have to be careful about the language they use,” saying: “Where violence has been stoked around the world you will find political leaders who have failed to rein in their language… There is a certain degree of cause and effect.”

Smith’s comments were echoed by Holocaust survivor Janine Webber, 87, who lost most of her Polish family during the Shoah.

“There is an increase in antisemitism in the UK and the extreme right is on the rise,” she said. “There is insecurity in the world. Some people are anti-immigrants. They are looking for a scapegoat for their problems, something that will help them get the anger off their chests.”

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