Holocaust Memorial Day - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 12:04 pm ar 2 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Davies of Brixton Lord Davies of Brixton Llafur 12:04, 2 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, it is an honour to take part in this debate and to listen to everyone’s contributions. We are, of course, particularly affected by the testimony of my noble friend Lord Dubs, but all speakers have posed questions that for most of us like myself, who have had a life free of the sort of discrimination faced by too many people, make us ask, “What are we doing about the issue?”. That is the purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day. It is an issue of considerable gravity and historical significance because it relates to the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s website sets out:

“Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur”.

Clearly, we have to pay tribute to the work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Educational Trust for the amazing, extraordinary and dedicated work that they do. One of the key objectives, as set out in the Statement of Commitment for Holocaust Memorial Day, is:

“We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocides. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt”.

Clearly, this is a continuing task, a continual battle.

There is no question but that the Holocaust stands out in human history, when the systematic persecution and extermination of 6 million Jews took place under the Nazi regime during World War II. That is why, as a number of speakers have said, we must ensure that “never again” does not become a matter of ritual and is kept firmly in our minds and passed on to our children and our children’s children, echoing down the ages. For all of us, the Holocaust has to serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of hatred, discrimination and the erosion of basic human rights.

It is essential that, in addition to what other noble Lords have said, as well as spending time remembering victims, we remember the bravery of those who resisted the oppression and sought to protect the values of humanity. I take the opportunity of this debate to mention the courageous role played by trade unionists during those dark times. The Holocaust Day Memorial Trust points out that, on assuming power, the first people the Nazis targeted for arrest and imprisonment were political opponents, primarily communists, socialists and trade unionists. Dachau, one of the first Nazi concentration camps, opened in March 1933 to imprison political opponents, including trade unionists. Trade unions were disbanded in May 1933 and union leaders were arrested and incarcerated, or fled into exile. By the end of 1933, almost 27,000 people were imprisoned in concentration camps, the majority of whom were political prisoners.

Trade unionists played a crucial and perhaps overlooked role during the Holocaust. Driven by a commitment to justice and solidarity, they stood against the tyranny of the Nazi regime. They were aware that the principles of fairness, equality and workers’ rights were under direct threat. Despite the dangers they faced, many trade unionists defied the oppressive forces and resisted the erosion of the very fabric of society. They provided shelter, forged documents and facilitated escapes, risking their own lives to defy the Nazi authorities. The lesson for us now is how the courage and resilience of these trade unionists set a model for us to follow, to exert the power of collective action and the importance of standing up against injustice. We all have to ask ourselves what we would have done in those circumstances. They provide an inspiration that perhaps we could have joined in the fight—a fight that continues now.

When we reflect on the Holocaust and the contributions of the trade unionists, we must all renew our commitment to safeguard human rights, promote equality, and resist discrimination in all its forms. The lessons of history have to inspire us to be vigilant against the seeds of hatred and intolerance, and to foster a world where the principles of justice and solidarity prevail.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is to highlight the importance of protecting freedom. Will the Minister provide the House with an update on how the Government are supporting greater awareness that events leading to genocide can be subtle, and of the importance that we all recognise the conditions that can lead to persecution?