Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said the money put into Holocaust education is the “best investment” his department has made.
Mr Balls and his wife Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, were among the 300 guests at the Holocaust Educational Trust dinner in central London.
Stressing the enduring importance of Holocaust education, he said young Britons were learning about the Shoah in a “relevant and sophisticated” way.
“The money we are investing is probably the best investment our department makes for the future of young people. To learn about the Holocaust is firmly part of the curriculum and HET brings it alive for young people with messages that are very powerful for our country today.”
The Department of Children, Schools and Families is giving the HET £1.5 million annually for its Lessons from Auschwitz project, through which sixth-formers visit the death camp site. HET also aims to raise awareness and understanding through teacher training and has taken more than 7,000 staff and pupils to Auschwitz.
But HET chairman Lord Janner says there is more to be done. “In some schools it’s good and in some schools they are doing very little.”
He was concerned at rising antisemitism and the ever-dwindling number of survivors to relay their stories to new generations.
“We work against racism of all kinds and we can’t let people forget about what happened. We’ve been very lucky to hear survivors’ stories but they are dying off, so we have to train more people.”
Addressing diners, actor John Hurt said his interest in the Holocaust had grown since starring in the 2005 film, Shooting Dogs, about the Rwandan genocide. “I met many of the Rwandan survivors and thought their stories were extraordinary.
“But the more I experience, the more it seems to me that before any of us move forward, we have to recognise the fact we are all capable of that which is wonderful and that which is terrible.”
Praising the HET for its “fantastic work”, he added: “It’s crucially important to keep teaching the next generation about the Holocaust because it is just common sense.”
Fellow actor Antony Sher, broadcaster Angela Rippon and a number of survivors were also among the guests at the dinner.