Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has revealed plans to visit Auschwitz for the first time in 2024 on an official government visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
Keegan announced the trip on Monday evening during her keynote speech at HET’s annual dinner at the Roundhouse in north London.
She told an audience of more than 700 people, including survivors and their families: “I’ve done all I can to support Holocaust education. I’m proud my department has funded HET’s Lessons From Auschwitz programme. Until now I always thought I’d find seeing Auschwitz too upsetting. But some things are just too important. That’s why next year I will join an HET visit with schoolchildren to learn more and to pay my respects.”
Keegan, whose husband Michael is a trustee of Chichester Holocaust Memorial Day, added: “We need our children to know and understand what humanity is capable of, the importance of speaking out against intolerance and not just standing by. That’s why the Holocaust is the only compulsory topic in the history national curriculum key stage three and has been since 1991 when HET led the campaign for its inclusion.”
The evening began with HET chief executive Karen Pollock paying tribute to survivors Sir Ben Helfgott, who died aged 93 in June, and Zigi Shipper, who died on his 93rd birthday in January. Pollock, who is marking 25 years at the charity, hailed them as “titans of Holocaust education and remembrance”. Sir Ben’s sister, Mala Tribich, also paid her own moving tribute.
HET chairman Craig Leviton announced that in the last 12 months, 90,000 people had heard the testimony of survivors and 1,000 teachers received training in the subject.
The evening, hosted by Rob Rinder and Louisa Clein, concluded with acclaimed author and historian Laurence Rees discussing his upcoming book, Inside The Nazi Mind, an attempt to understand what motivated millions of people to support the Third Reich.
There was also a moving opening to the evening by the National Youth Music Theatre and the Trust’s ambassadors, using the words of Holocaust survivors and music including Wiegela, a piece composed by Ilse Weber, who was murdered in the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and One Day, written and composed by Jack Pepper, a Holocaust Educational Trust ambassador.
Guests included TV personalities Natasha Kaplinsky, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Ed Balls, Rachel Riley and Game of Thrones actress Laura Pradelska; BBC broadcasters and Today presenters Nick Robinson and Martha Kearney.
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