Commons Speaker says ‘family history’ makes him determined to fight antisemitism

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Commons Speaker says ‘family history’ makes him determined to fight antisemitism

Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke to Jewish News after hosting a moving Holocaust Memorial Day event at his residence at which three survivors - from the Holocaust, Darfur and Bosnian genocides - all gave harrowing accounts

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

right to left: John Hadju who survived the Holocaust, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, El Sadiq 'Debay' Mahmoud Manees survived the Darfur genocide, Smajo Bešo OBE survived the Bosnian genocide 
photo ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
right to left: John Hadju who survived the Holocaust, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, El Sadiq 'Debay' Mahmoud Manees survived the Darfur genocide, Smajo Bešo OBE survived the Bosnian genocide photo ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has spoken of the “family history” that has left him determined to challenge antisemitism and all other forms of racism when they raise their ugly heads.

Speaking to Jewish News after hosting a moving Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at Speakers House in Westminster, the Commons Speaker since 2019 said:”My grandfather had been in the First World War, and relatives fought in the Second World War who came back to tell the stories, of when they went into Germany.

“In Chorley, (Hoyle’s Lancashire home) you had some of the first people who went into the camps. And that always stood out.

“I want a better world. I want to make sure we don’t go back. The one thing we learnt about the Second World War, it was about the trials that brought people to justice.

“And to hear the harrowing stories of evil people, and what they carried out is so important.

“And that’s why I want my speakership to be one in which we do all we can to make sure this never happens again.”

Speaker leads HMD commemoration in parliament
©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Looking towards the three survivors who had just spoken at Thursday’s Speakers House event, which was organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Hoyle said:”These are the last voices of people who suffered.

“It’s their voices telling me their stories, so I can carry on telling the story. We want young people to listen, to hear, and to tell all about the evil of what they did.”

Hoyle also spoke of his determination to ensure that parliament was a welcoming place for Jewish, Muslim and MPs from all diverse communities in this country.

“It’s about making sure we support you,” opines Hoyle, “whether you are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, any faith.

“People have been elected to represent their communities. There should be nothing put in their way to stop them speaking out.

“We have to make sure we support each other. People should not feel there are barriers because they are Jewish or Muslim.

“They should be able to speak out without any intimidation, and without threats. Because we have seen that, against Jewish MPs.”

The Speaker then references a further piece of family history.

“My father (the former Labour MP Doug Hoyle) helped found Labour Friends of Israel, so you know, there is history within my family.”

Sajid Javid lights remembrance candle

Earlier Holocaust survivor John Hadju had been amongst trio of speakers to give moving testimonies at the Speakers event.

He spoke alongside El Sadiq ‘Debay’ Mahmoud Manees, who survived genocide in Darfur, and Smajo Bešo OBE who survived the Bosnian genocide.

Holding a teddy bear he has had since he was a child, Hadju explained how he witnessed his father being taken away to a forced labour camp for Jewish men in 1943.

One year later his mother was marched to a concentration camp in Austria.

Hadju said that the continued high level of antisemitic incidents in the UK was a reason why the events in Nazi Germany needed today to be “understood by as many people as possible.”

Hadju pointed to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine saying it mirrored what went on when he was a child growing up Hungary.

“It’s absolutely vital that you learn from me what my life is about, that you learn that this must never happen again,” he said.

He told of fleeing his home in Budapest with his family when he was just seven years old to escape the Nazis, and then facing a second threat from the Soviet army before being granted a permit to enter the UK.

Asked whether the experience had ever made him question his Jewish faith, Hadju said he has always firstly attempted to live his life with respect for all human beings, and then also to be a good Jew.

Bosnian survivor Bešo spoke movingly of how his father and other members of his family were tortured by Serb nationalists.

He also warned that Serbian nationalism was inspirational for far-right antisemitic figures such as Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.

As he spoke about being tortured in Darfur,Manees at one point broke down in tears as reliving his real life experience became too much.

But he recovered to continue his harrowing account of the genocide in Darfur.

Later an HMD event took place at Portcullis House, Westminster, at which ex-minister Sajid Javid, Fleur Anderson MP, Laura Marks OBE, and the three survivors lit candles to remember the victims of the Holocaust, and of other genocides.



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