Michael Gove has told Anne Frank Trust supporters that the “unique evil and prejudice” of Nazi Germany was a product of social education failings.
Addressing 630 guests at the trust’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day lunch in central London, which raised £330,000, the Education Secretary said: “The people who were responsible for electing Hitler, who marched as Nazis and voted for tyranny, were university educated, sophisticated and cultured. Despite all the benefits of a conventional education that gave them all those gifts, the most important thing in education was missing.
“They lacked that education in character, in ethics, in morality — they couldn’t see through prejudice and see Hitler’s antisemitism for the evil twisted nonsense that it was.”
Welcoming Mr Gove’s remarks, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie — an active member of the trust’s lunch committee — noted: “We all have prejudices, they are everywhere. We need to address and challenge them.”
He highlighted the educational work of the trust, from schools’ young ambassadors to exhibitions in prisons.
“In Bradford they trained over 150 ambassadors last year and have been invited back this year,” he pointed out.
Bradford-born Uzma Zahid, 19, a trust ambassador who has been involved in its activities for six years, also addressed diners.
“I didn’t know anything about Anne Frank before the programme,” she explained afterwards. “Now I have learnt to be compassionate above anything else. I had to learn a lot of facts and figures so I could teach people about the exhibition. I’ve also been to Amsterdam with the trust and now I’m here — it’s changed my life.
Mr Gove said: “Uzma is the face and representative of modern British Muslim women. She spoke from the heart.
“Education is not just about ensuring people leave school to be workers and entrepreneurs, but critically, that they leave school ready to become citizens.”
He also argued that “one of the most effective ways in which we can counteract tyranny is by building a safe house and warm centre for those who are fleeing persecution”.
The “true test” of a nation’s standing was “how it treats people who are different. For someone who comes from a minority, do they feel as much part of that nation and that sense of family as anyone? If they can, then that nation is great — and if they can in Britain, then our society will be Great Britain.”
Praising the trust’s work, he said it supported “a tried and tested method of helping teachers educate children about how to overcome prejudice — and to value other people”.
Chairman Daniel Mendoza said: “We must educate about any form of discrimination. We just need to increase the pace.”