Our £7m plan to combat Jew-hate in schools is on track, says education secretary

Gillian Keegan spoke to the JC after returning from a visit to Auschwitz, where she was ‘moved to tears’


Keegan signs the visitors' book at Auschwitz

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has repeated the government’s pledge to take action against antisemitism in schools, saying that the introduction of a £7 million programme to combat Jew-hate had merely been “paused”, not cancelled.

Speaking to the JC on Thursday immediately after returning from a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, she said that the delay had been caused by the need “to get the procurement right, not for any other reason”.

The JC reported last week that the scheme, announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his autumn statement, was put on hold two weeks ago.

The Disapora Alliance, a left-wing Jewish group funded by American millionaires, has launched a High Court judicial review of Keegan’s decision to base the scheme around the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Some see IHRA as controversial because it says that denying Israel’s right to exist or comparing it to Nazi Germany constitutes antisemitism.

Keegan said that her rejection of this comparison had only grown stronger thanks to her Auschwitz visit, and that she had “no time” for claims that Israel’s war in Gaza amounted to genocide: “Obviously there’s the discussion about the use of the word genocide, but clearly this is not comparable.

“Maybe that’s a reason more people do need to visit Auschwitz – anyone who sees the systematic design and build of death camps, and concentration camps with gas chambers, this is a very different thing.”

She said there was “always a risk of intolerance and hatred being normalised”, recalling an earlier visit to Yad Vashem when she had been “shocked” by seeing posters on display there of Nazi Party posters put up before the election that swept Hitler to power in 1933.

“It’s something you always have to be on guard for,” Keegan said, and that was why why her department’s plans to fight antisemitism were “so, so important – if it happened once, it can happen again. You always must learn lessons from the past, because if you don’t, it can happen again.”

There was, she added, a “different climate” around extremist beliefs – not just because of October 7 and its aftermath, but because of their propagation on social media, “which does help to organise it in certain ways. But Jews need to feel safe. If they don’t, that is the first step to general intolerance and hatred, and to societies not functioning as they should”.

Keegan visited the death camp site with children from Midlands schools, who were taking part in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project. The experience, she said had moved her to tears, while its impact had been heightened given its timing in the wake of the October 7 massacre: “It felt very poignant because for the first time in a long time, Jewish people in many countries, including in our country, are feeling threatened and scared and are feeling more subjected to levels of hatred that they never thought would be possible.”

Karen Pollock, the trust’s chief executive, told the JC: “The impact of visiting Auschwitz – the site where over a million Jewish men, women and children were murdered, can never be underestimated.

“By joining us on our Lessons from Auschwitz Project, the Secretary of State has demonstrated her personal commitment and support to ensure future generations continue to remember the Holocaust and the six million men, women and children murdered – just because they were Jewish.

“We are very grateful for the continued support from the Department for Education which has allowed tens of thousands of young people from across the UK to see the site for themselves and become Ambassadors against antisemitism and hate.”

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