'Social media has power Nazis could only dream of' says survivor at Foreign Office event

Manfred Goldberg said social networks must be held to account for allowing antisemitic content to spread


Survivor Manfred Goldberg has expressed his fears for the future of Holocaust remembrance, blaming social media for giving antisemites propaganda power "that the Nazis could only dream of.”

Addressing Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and a room full of politicians and dignitaries on Tuesday, Mr Goldberg shared testimony of his experience in the Holocaust, but spoke of his fears for a “bleak” future without survivors there to tell their stories.

He spoke of a “resurgence of antisemitism”, and Labour’s Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry nodded vigorously as Mr Goldberg said: “Antisemites may be a small minority, but the immediacy of the social media websites has conferred a propaganda power on them that the Nazis could only dream of.

“I feel that unless a courageous politician or government imposes effective control over these websites, in some way similar to the way newspapers are responsible for what they publish, unless that happens, I feel the future is bleak.”

Mr Goldberg was born in Kassell, central Germany, in 1930, and although his father was able to escape to Britain just before the outbreak of war, he, his mother, and his younger brother were deported to the Riga Ghetto in Latvia. Mr Goldberg then was forced to become a slave labourer for the Nazis, and in 1944 he was deported to the Stutthof concentration camp before being liberated at the end of a death march in May 1945.

In September 1946, he was able to join his father in Britain, and he told the gathered dignitaries: “I was always grateful, I am grateful, I will remain grateful for the rest of my life for the privilege of being permitted to live my life in complete my life in complete freedom in this wonderful country.” 

In closing, he said: “If I may be so bold, I would urge you to engrave into your hearts the following message; never remain silent when witnessing injustice. Please remember that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to remain silent.”

In his speech, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recalled his visit last year to Radegast station in Lodz in Poland where 200,000 Jewish men, women and children were transported to Nazi death camps.

“I reflected on how the countless ordinary suburban train stations like this, scattered all across occupied Europe were used for years to send human beings to be murdered,” he said.

“I stood where they stood. I saw what they saw.”

“Today, every one of us shares a solemn duty to remember that those conditions did indeed exist in Europe in the 20th century. Six million women, children, men who might otherwise have lived in peace were consumed by the Holocaust."

“Our only possible response is to mean it, heart and soul, when we say the words ‘never again’.”

Echoing that message was Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotevely, who reminded the audience that there was nothing special about the Nazis: they were normal people: “These unimaginable crimes were committed by ordinary people to ordinary people. It is our responsibility to listen to the stories of the victims to hear their words and ensure they are never forgotten.”

She recounted the heart-breaking story of Pinchas Eisner who was murdered by the Nazis in 1944 at just 17-year-old, days after writing a letter to his older brother saying goodbye. 

“The words are a constant reminder to the Jewish people and to the rest of the world as why a Jewish state is a necessity. I am proud to represent the State of Israel – a place of safety and sanctuary for Jewish people, as well as those of all faiths or of none. Israel is the enduring promise of ‘never again’.”

“The Holocaust is the greatest stain on the conscience of humanity. It shows the terrible consequences of when other ordinary people stand by and allow hatred to take over.” 

“We’re extremely grateful to the United Kingdom for its ongoing support and friendship.” 

Lord Eric Pickles also gave a speech expressing serious concern about the use of ‘deepfakes’ - artificially generated videos – that could manipulate or undermine the testimony of survivors who will soon no longer be with us to share their testimony: “When truth is corrupted, it’s easier to raise doubts about specific events.” 

“I believe the answer lies in the strength of our narrative – the truth of the Holocaust. We should make it our mission to ensure that those who question the basic truth of the Holocaust are seen as the charlatans that they are.”

The UK Online Commemoration will be broadcast at 7pm on Thursday 26 January. You can register to watch it here:

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