New chancellor says he will ‘always be strong backer of Jewish people’

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New chancellor says he will ‘always be strong backer of Jewish people’

In his first speech to the community since he began the role Kwasi Kwarteng told guests at Holocaust Educational Trust dinner it is 'vital' the 'sheer evil' of the Shoah is never forgotten

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Kwasi Kwarteng speaks at HET annual dinner 2022
Kwasi Kwarteng speaks at HET annual dinner 2022

New chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has said he will “always be a strong backer” of both Jewish people across the globe and “friends of Israel.”

In his first speech to the community since he was handed the role by Prime Minister Liz Truss, the former business secretary told guests at the Holocaust Educational Trust’s annual dinner of his belief that is absolutely “vital” that the “sheer evil” of the Nazi regime is never forgotten.

Kwarteng told the 700 strong audience who attended the event at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, that he would give “unstinting support” to HET, which he described as a “fabulous organisation.”

While admitting he did not have “limitless resources”, the chancellor, who delivers a mini-budget on Friday, said he could not think of a more worthy cause than the charity.

He then added: “And I will always be a strong backer of not only Jewish friends, and the Jewish people, but also friends of Israel. And Jewish people across the world, wherever they are, who face persecution and hate, even today.”

HET’s first fundraising dinner for three years raised over £1 million, it was later confirmed.

Kwarteng also recalled attending a barmitzvah of very close friend in 1987, who grandfather was a survivor. He said: “I remember as a boy, in 1987, having the privilege of speaking to many, many people who had not only survived the camps, but have built fabulous lives here in the UK and elsewhere, and they have families, they had full lives.”

These where the people, the chancellor said, who had “actually bought testimony and experienced the horrors of the concentration camps.”

In a similar vein to other speakers Kwarteng, who said he was a keen historian, spoke of the need to preserve the accounts of those who survived the Shoah, even after the last survivors are no longer alive.

“As someone who takes historical research very seriously, I think it’s absolutely vital that those memories are preserved, and that that truth is remembered.” he said.

“But as I’ve observed, this isn’t just about history. The fires of human hate, people’s passion for distortion ,for lies, to express superiority, to sheer evil, continues to ravage too many lines of thought and frustrate too many people.”

He said it was “absolutely vital in order to combat and fight those current demons that we remember the appalling essence of human brutality constituted by the Nazi regime.”

Earlier in the evening Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis had read a poignant prayer for the late Queen Elizabeth II.

HET chief executive Karen Pollock CBE also praised the late Her Majesty’s “admiration respect and kindness” to Holocaust survivors, and to the veterans of the Armed Forces who had fought in the Second World War.

Pollock paid tribute to the survivors who had attended the dinner, and to those who had been unable to attend.

But she also noted the number of survivors no longer alive and spoke of the “urgent” need to ensure the horror of the Holocaust and the death of six million Jews does not fade from history.

Pollock spoke of the wonderful work now being done by HET ambassadors to ensure this does not happen.

BBC Radio 4 presenter Nick Robinson, who compared the evening, also spoke of the excellent work HET does in connecting the survivors’ stories with the younger generation of today.

He told of his own desire to make sure his own children were able to carry on testimonies of survivors to their own families in the future.

Further highlights of the night included a fantastic speech, and poem, from18-year old Samar Ahmed, a HET ambassador.

Survivor Manfred Goldberg also spoke from the stage, telling how his account of the death camps had been recorded to allow future generations to hear his account of the Nazi horror, long after he has gone.

Golberg, who spoke with another HET ambassador Joshua sat next to him, said:”“I have spoken to students from every background, of all faiths and none, from every corner of the country. But I won’t be able to do this forever. One day, it will fall to others.”

Chair Craig Leviton was also a speaker.

Among those to attend the event were  Tzipi Hotovely, Ambassador of Israel to the UK, Neil Wigan OBE, Ambassador of the UK to Israel and Ambassador of Germany to the UK Miguel Berger.

Government minister Robert Jenrick, former health secretary Sajid Javid, Dame Louise Ellman, and Lord Austin were among the parliamentarians present.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl,  Labour Friends of Israel’s Adrian Cohen and Michael Rubin, James Gurd of Conservative Friends of Israel and Mark Gardner and Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust and Ruth Smeeth were also among the guests.







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