CLG – HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY – 29 January 2009
Mr David Winnick: ... Does the Minister not deplore the fact that the Vatican has brought back into the fold a British-born bishop who is a Holocaust denier and obviously pro-Nazi? Although I accept that the Vatican has totally dissociated itself from his remarks, is it not unfortunate that that bishop is allowed to be so senior in the Catholic clergy, given that he simply denies that the gas chambers existed? ...
Mr Angus MacNeil: Has Her Majesty's Government made any representations through its diplomatic envoys at the Holy See – the Vatican – about our disgust at the fact that the bishop who denied the holocaust has been taken back into the fold? If that has not happened, will the Minister give assurances that it could happen? Many people feel that the issue should not go unremarked by the wider world. ...
Dr Julian Lewis: I am sorry to keep labouring this point, but what the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) said, and has just been reiterated, is of critical importance. The Pope has made a decision to take someone who is an unrepentant denier of the Holocaust – one of three people who were excommunicated for other reasons – back into his Church, not because that person denies the holocaust but in spite of the fact that he denies it – a denial that has recently been repeated. Can the Minister impress on his colleagues the importance of the Government taking a firm view and expressing it in no uncertain terms? I am sure that British Roman Catholics, British Jews and, indeed, British people of no religion whatsoever will be absolutely horrified about what His Holiness the Pope has done.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Sadiq Khan): I pay tribute to the role that the hon. Gentleman has played with regard to David Irving when he went to Oxford. We all know the protestations that the hon. Gentleman made about his disgust at that happening. Let me put it to him this way. Having spoken, as he has, to many survivors of the Holocaust and bereaved families, and being aware of the psychological trauma that goes through communities in relation to hate crime, I am caused great concern by the fact that somebody who can deny that the Holocaust took place can hold high office or be invited to august institutions to debate the subject. Many Members in this House will share the feelings that the hon. Gentleman has expressed and find the promotion of such a person highly unsavoury. I will turn to the issue of Holocaust denial later in my short opening remarks, because it is still, 64 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, raised by so-called academics and opinion-formers.
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Dr Lewis: Last year, I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau under the aegis of the Holocaust Educational Trust, and it was indeed a profoundly moving experience. I also went to see how the trust prepared the youngsters before they visited the site, and I was hugely impressed by the contribution of a man called Joe Perl, a Holocaust survivor. After all he had been through, he was still filled with enough love of humanity to carry his message to those young children. I was also impressed by the fact that when the children came back, they were encouraged to talk about their experiences and to think of ideas to ensure that these things can never happen again.
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Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend's [Lee Scott's] mention of Theresienstadt reminded me of one of the brightest aspects of the whole Holocaust disaster: the behaviour of the people of Denmark, from the monarch down. There were 10,000 Jews in Denmark and the people of Denmark were tipped off by an anti-Nazi German diplomat as to when those people were going to be rounded up, and they got the vast majority of them safely away to Sweden. Only 500 or so were rounded up; they were sent to Theresienstadt and thanks to the ongoing campaigns on their behalf most of them survived even that experience. One thing that is not mentioned often enough is the outstanding behaviour of the Danes, including the King, who said, “If my people are going to wear a yellow star under occupation, so will I.”
Mr Scott: My hon. Friend is, of course, totally right in everything that he said – those events should be recorded and honoured.