The UK government does not take Holocaust memorial seriously.
On the face of it, the above statement is laughable. At state schools, Holocaust education is part of the syllabus. Every year, the great and the good of British society gather together on Holocaust Memorial Day. And in the coming weeks, we are due to find out which prestigious architectural firm will build a multi-million pound Holocaust memorial.
Yet, as the British government prepares to set aside a place for Shoah remembrance in the shadow of Parliament, I am forced to repeat my statement. The UK government does not take Holocaust memorial seriously.
Why do I say this? Because it is easy to bow our heads and beat our chests regarding terrible events which happen elsewhere. What matters most is how we conduct ourselves when we are faced with things that happened in our own country.
In the UK, the Holocaust is spoken of as something distant from these shores. But 60 miles off the Channel coast, on the British channel island of Alderney, the Nazis operated a camp complex. There were two labour camps and two concentration camps.
We do not know exactly how many people perished there between January 1942 and summer 1944. Some sources say hundreds. A few even believe tens of thousands died there.
We know that from 1943, the concentration camps were operated by the SS. And one thing is not in doubt: among those who went to their deaths on the island, there were Jews.
Of the four camps which made up the Alderney complex, at least one, the Lager Sylt, was largely occupied by Jews. But what recognition is there of the fact that the SS ran a concentration camp where Jews perished on British soil? Almost none. How many people in the UK are aware of this dark chapter? Seemingly very few.
Now, as part of an energy deal between Britain and France, numerous graves of those who died on the island have already been “severely damaged”, with “greater damage” likely to come.
The UK government sets great store by those who were murdered by the Nazis in central and eastern Europe. But when it comes to the graves of those murdered by the Nazis on British soil, our government seems to have nothing to say.