Holocaust Memorial Day - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 1:37 pm ar 2 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Reid of Cardowan Lord Reid of Cardowan Llafur 1:37, 2 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, with the indulgence of the House, I will make a brief contribution. I did not intend to speak today. I came along as a matter of respect and to listen, and I am glad that I did because I found some of the speeches quite incredible, not least that of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. In my 40 years in Parliament, or thereabouts, I have rarely heard a more moving contribution. I am proud to call him a colleague and a friend.

I have only one point to make. The magnitude of the horror of the Holocaust is such that we, out of necessity, constrain it within certain limits of place and of time. The place? Germany under the Nazis. The time? The period between 1933 and 1945. I understand why we do this, but it is extremely misleading. In terms of time, we can go back 1,000 years in European history. The Jews were certainly excluded at stages; then, they were ghettoised; then, they were forcibly converted; then they were proscribed. And then, they were annihilated.

The Holocaust was the natural outcome of the seeds of a thousand years of European—dare I say it?—Christian conduct. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, mentioned the Catholic Church; I do not think Martin Luther and the Protestants were very keen on the Jews, either. It was a Christian phenomenon, and one which we should face up to. Of course, at the end of the 19th century it culminated in the writings of Joseph Chamberlain, the Dreyfus affair, the caricature of “Jewish Bolshevism”—which enabled people to go for Communists and Jews at the same time—and the terrible outcome of the Holocaust. But there was a long period before 1933, or even before 1921, when the Nazis adopted the original programme.

Secondly, the Holocaust was also not confined to concentration camps and death camps. Fewer than half of the people who died, died in concentration camps and death camps. And it was not confined to Germany or Poland. It happened in Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, in western Europe and France; thank God, not in Britain. So, yes, the Nazis gave licence, but they did not order each and every execution. It sprung from the history of European civilisation and Christianity, and when it was unleashed by the Nazis, all sorts of people were involved in annihilating the Jews.

Why do I mention those two aspects? Because, if we truly want to learn the lessons, we should not confine it mentally to one nation, one area and one epoch, and recognise that even today it is ubiquitous. It is there: we see it in the politics of rabid right-wing nationalism, which will turn on the Jews because they are not of this country, and of the rabid left wing, which equates monopoly capitalism with the Jewish financiers. We have seen how insidiously that can creep into our own party on this side of the House.

We truly want to learn the lessons in order to combat it. It is uncomfortable, but we had better recognise the length of anti-Semitism and its ubiquitous nature. That is the task that faces us. It is widespread and long lasting, and I have no doubt that it will continue to be so—so all of us have a responsibility to counter it wherever and whenever it occurs.