Foreign Office minister promises to preserve memory of the Holocaust

Lord Ahmad told a conference of the importance of commemorating the Shoah


British foreign office minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon has "to preserve memories and never let them be wiped out by those who seek to eradicate memories, eradicate people and eradicate communities".

Lord Ahmad pledged that, as fewer and fewer first-hand witnesses or victims of the Nazi atrocities remain alive, the British government would "do its part to preserve the voices... to ensure their words can drown out the lies of what happened.  And their experiences will help the world to learn. LorHistory must never be allowed to repeat itself, but tragically it does."

Speaking at a conference run in London called "The International Forum on Collecting, Preserving and Disseminating Holocaust Testimony",  he added: "We need to be able to say: We did not forget."

The two-day Conference was held at Lancaster House, where some of The Crown and The King’s Speech was filmed and which has also hosted historic conferences like the negotiations over Rhodesia in 1979.

He told the conference of his deep emotions as he visited Babyn Yar, in Kyiv, just before the war in Ukraine, together with the Ukrainian and German presidents. Over thirty thousand people, mostly Jews, were shot dead there and shoved into pits during World War Two. 

Lord Ahmad also spoke emotionally about his visits to Warsaw and how he had accompanied boisterous 16- and 17-year old non-Jewish British schoolchildren to Auschwitz and Birkenau and was amazed and moved by how they fell silent as they were shown what had happened there.

Meanwhile, Germany's ambassador to Britain said his government is keen to encourage an increasing flow of successful applications for naturalisation by British Jews with German roots.

Miguel Berger said his government now has in place legislation allowing "easier naturalisation for descendants of victims of persecution by the Nazis, and we hope we are able to welcome many more back to their former German identity."

He described the two hundred thousand Jews in his country, many from eastern Europe and Russia, as constituting  "a fundamental part of our society and a truly extraordinary gift to Germany.  In our London embassy, we observe with gratitude the growing number of British citizens with Jewish roots who are taking the huge step of reclaiming their Jewish identity. "

Ambassador Berger assured the conference, run by the Association of Jewish Refugees, that Germany's educational system had "firmly anchored"  curricula on the Holocaust and the "horrors" of the Nazi persecution. "Remembrance of the Holocaust and the Nazi rule of terror is recognised and firmly established as a [German] national responsibility."  

It also needed, he said, to be embedded as "first and foremost a duty of each and every one of us", a process that had been helped in German schools by survivors and by British kinder-transport children.

But he said his country, like the rest of the world, needed to "keep defending our liberal values which are fragile and precious and which we too often take for granted.   We need a strong active and resilient civil society to deny antisemitism its breeding ground."

Echoing a theme of the conference, Ambassador Berger said: "We are stepping up our fight against Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion", a task that was all the more vital to combat new disturbing trends. He cited dangerous efforts online to claim that anti-Covid vaccinations were part of a conspiracy to cause a new Holocaust.

The conference, he said, provided "a powerful call to action and an important reminder that we must prevent populism from taking root in our societies.  Antisemitism, brazen Holocaust distortion and denial, conspiracy theories, and demonstrations against Covid 19 restrictions, are on the rise.  All certainties around the world  and the rule of law are under attack."

The ambassador said it was important to find innovative ways to "focus on how we can together continue the work for a world free of persecution and violence."

Michael Newman, CEO of the AJR said the Conference was being held "at a momentous time".

He explained: "An alignment of increasing Holocaust distortion combined with diminishing numbers of refugees and survivors, who can testify through lived experience, makes it more crucial than ever before that eyewitness accounts are collected, preserved and disseminated.

The UK Holocaust Testimony Portal, he said, would be a "critical resource that will enable the dissemination of Holocaust testimony and will harness and future proof worldwide testimony archives."

A recording of the conference is available on the AJR's website:

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive