Starmer must apologise, demand furious German Jewish leaders

The Labour leader was criticised for 'erasing the Holocaust'


German Jewish leaders have launched a blistering attack on Sir Keir Starmer, demanding that he apologise after he “erased the Holocaust” and “scored cheap political points” on his recent visit to Berlin.

The Labour leader sparked controversy after he appeared in a party political video filmed with the backdrop of the German capital’s Holocaust memorial while listing Labour’s achievements.

He was criticised for using the site for his own purposes while failing to mention the Shoah, something that is particularly frowned upon in the country.

Now he finds himself under renewed pressure as German Jewish figures launch a powerful broadside against the Labour leader.

Nicholas Potter from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which fights antisemitism in Germany, told the JC: “Starmer should apologise and listen to the criticism that people in the Jewish community are making if Labour wants to make good on his promise to follow on from the Corbyn years in a positive way.

"Appropriating a memorial for the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah as a backdrop for an election campaign video is tasteless enough. That the video fails to even mention the horrors of National Socialism is a serious misstep from a party that, given its recent history, simply needs to do better when it comes to fighting antisemitism and regaining the trust of the Jewish community.

“Starmer is posing in front of the memory of Europe’s murdered Jewry in order to score cheap political points, while failing to address not just the murderous legacy of fascism, but also the very alarming resurgence of antisemitism across Europe."

Sigmount Königsberg, the Commissioner for Antisemitism for the Berlin Jewish Community, added: “UK Labour eliminated the Shoah. Keir Starmer made the Holocaust Memorial just a meaningless backdrop. It added to the sense that Jews are only extras in the memorial theatre in Germany.”

And Volker Beck of Tikvah, an organisation that combats Jew-hate, said: “Kier Starmer needs self-reflection. It's not just in Germany where you are supposed to respect these places.

“It's noticeable that someone from the British Labour Party goes to the memorial and doesn't pay appropriate respect.

“He also wrote an empty statement in the Holocaust book, which was made into a statement about global social injustice.

“He knows why they were killed. Antisemitism is not just a fight for social justice and a good world. Where is the remembrance of the victimhood of six million murdered European Jews?

“What many don't recognise is that for the Nazis and fascists, antisemitism was defining. They didn't agree on anything completely, other than that. Hate for Jews was what they had in common.

“Starmer doesn't understand antisemitism if he thinks it's just another form of prejudice like homophobia. If you don't understand that, you are helpless in the fight against it.”

In the video, Starmer and Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy are seen walking through the memorial to the victims of the Nazi genocide in choreographed shots immediately after referencing the war in Ukraine.

Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish former Labour MP, veteran anti-racism campaigner and now chief executive of Index on Censorship came to Starmer’s defence, tweeting: “Keir Starmer has a proud record in fighting antisemitism. He visited the Holocaust memorial and spoke about it at the time.

“This attack is not only wrong, but completely disingenuous and deeply unfair. And attempts to politicise something that simply shouldn’t be.”

But Joe Glasman, head of political and government investigations at the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “It is a matter of decency and long-established convention in Germany that you never stoop to using the Berlin Holocaust Memorial as some kind of a prop. But to incorporate the Memorial as the backdrop for a political clip that does not even mention the Holocaust is an insult.

He added: “Exploiting a visit to the Holocaust memorial like this for campaigning purposes is not just tasteless, it is manipulative and repulsive.”

The two Labour politicians were given a guided tour around the Holocaust memorial, which Sir Keir described as “a very unsettling but thought-provoking memorial,” adding that “it was important to go there in the middle of this visit as well.”

During the trip, they also met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other German politicians. They are in Germany to explore how Britain and Germany can work together to stimulate growth and harness opportunities arising from environmental policies, as well as to discuss how a potential future Labour government would work with European partners following Brexit.

Inaugurated in 2005, the memorial in Berlin was designed by the American architect Peter Eisenman and the British engineering consultancy and design firm, Buro Happold. It covers a 19,000-square site and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs or arranged in a grid.

Speaking just after the visit to the memorial, Sir Keir told the JC: “The fight against antisemitism is never over. But we've got to continue with it, and we will, with the same rigour. We've got a very good team now looking at any allegations put before us. We're able to deal with them robustly and far more swiftly than we did before.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Visiting the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe was a very moving experience for Keir Starmer which is why we wanted to include it in our record of his visit to Berlin.

“Keir also spoke to the media about the visit, the power of the Memorial and why we must never forget the Holocaust.”

“As Labour leader Keir Starmer has shown an absolute determination to rid the Labour Party, and our wider society, of the scourge of antisemitism.”

Although the video was published on Sunday evening, Starmer posted a photo of the visit on Friday, writing: “We must always remember the millions of Jewish people who were murdered and persecuted because of who they were.”

“Labour remains committed to learning from the world’s darkest days. We stand with our allies in pursuing an equal and just future for all.”

The memorial has been at the centre of similar controversy before. In 2017, the German-Israeli writer Shack Shapira hit back against tourists posing for selfies at the site by editing their photographs, using Photoshop to replace the backdrop with horrific pictures of the victims of the Holocaust.

The project, which he called “Yolocaust”, attracted widespread media attention and ignited public debate in Germany about the appropriate treatment of memorial sites.

READ MORE: Opinion: Starmer was right to visit the Berlin memorial but wrong to use it as a video backdrop

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