Brown meets survivors

January 22, 2009

Gordon Brown welcomed Holocaust survivors Ben Helfgott and his sister Mala Tribich to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday when he signed a book of commitment, pledging to remember the Holocaust and to fight all forms of discrimination.

The book was placed in the House of Commons by the Holocaust Educational Trust in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day and has been signed by over 100 MPs.

Mr Brown wrote: “The whole world should remember and never forget — remember courageous men and women and also remember the evil that was done. As Elie Wiesel said: ‘Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.’”

During Prime Minister’s questions, he lauded the work of the HET, highlighting the government-supported Lessons from Auschwitz project which enables students from across the country to visit Auschwitz.

An Early Day Motion to mark HMD, tabled by Labour MP Phil Wilson and co-sponsored by Tory Greg Hands and Lib-Dem Alistair Carmichael, has attracted over 100 signatures.

Including school commemorations, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chair Dr Stephen Smith expects at least 200,000 people to be involved.

“There are over 500 community events that we know of and a 35 per cent increase in school events, which is particularly encouraging as we only send out material if requested. The general public is responding and a range of Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Parliament representatives are supporting it.”

The theme of “Stand up to Hatred” had been well received. “I was speaking to Leeds City Council about the local event and they said it has been easy to communicate. The message is that if you see a hate crime — whether against Jews, blacks or the disabled — report it.”

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears will be representing the government at the national ceremony in Coventry on Sunday. But the 850-capacity audience will not be the largest HMD turnout. Calderdale, Halifax, is expecting a crowd of 1,200 to hear speakers including Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Last updated: 3:09pm, January 22 2009