Miliband: 'I'm here for my family's Shoah victims'

Ed Miliband giving his HMD speech

Ed Miliband giving his HMD speech

Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke movingly about family members who lost their lives during the Holocaust at the UK’s main HMD commemoration in Westminster on Monday.

“I never met my mother’s father,” Mr Miliband told an audience of survivors, politicians and religious leaders at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

His grandfather had been taken from a ghetto in Poland and died in a concentration camp towards the end of the war. “I first knew about him when I first saw his picture in my grandmother’s house in Israel.

“I’m here for David, the grandfather I never knew. I’m here for David and all my family members on my father’s and mother’s side who died in the Holocaust. I’m here, too, for the six million Jews who died and all the other victims of Nazi persecution — and all those who have been the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. We honour their memory, remember their persecution and suffering, and say: ‘Never again.’”

Survivors of other genocides gave personal testimonies; stories of betrayal, kindness and the miracle of escape against almost impossible odds. A Darfur survivor’s story was recounted in his absence — he feared retribution for speaking out.

Another speaker was Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who used the HMD theme of “Journeys” to talk about the survivors who came to Britain. “Journeys are by no means easy but offer a chance of a new start, and a chance to defy the torturer by building a new life,” he said.

“The walls of the gas chamber cannot talk. But human experience is the best memory. Their new lives did not, of course, erase the past, but decades after the end of the Third Reich, there are real and continued victories over the obscenities of Nazism.”

Towards the end of the ceremony, Natasha Isaac, a 21-year-old classics student at Bristol University, spoke about her experiences on the March of the Living, in which Jews from all over the world travel to Poland to walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau. “I march not because they tried to destroy us, but because we are still here; not because Birkenau is a place of the most iniquitous desolation but because, even in the darkest of places, I can see hope.”

Last updated: 10:45am, February 3 2014