This year when we say ‘never again’ we have to mean it, says HET chief

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This year when we say ‘never again’ we have to mean it, says HET chief

Communities Secretary Michael Gove, Labour leader Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle delivered impassioned speeches at the Holocaust Educational Trust's Westminster reception

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Karen Pollock speaks at HET Westminster reception
Karen Pollock speaks at HET Westminster reception

As the Holocaust Educational Trust’s chief executive Karen Pollock noted when she spoke, the organisation’s Westminster reception took place this year at a time when “Nazi” slurs were all too frequently being used as a “stick to beat the Jewish people with”.

But despite this unsettling global climate ,Wednesday evening’s packed HET event offered those in attendance, including many of the remaining Holocaust survivors still alive in this country, much needed solidarity, support – and even a glimmer of hope.

The calibre of speakers, and the quality of their subsequent speeches, said much about the response within Westminster amongst most, if not all parliamentarians to the both the horrors of the October 7th Hamas atrocity, and the need to ‘Never Forget’ the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.

On a busy night elsewhere in parliament Communities Secretary Michael Gove, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle all make impressive speeches, at the event marking Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th.

Keir Starmer talks with survivor Manfred Goldberg at HET reception

Speaking firstly Starmer said: “I could never imagine that we would be standing here today saying ‘Never Again’ in the way that we are today, after the biggest killing of Jews since the Holocaust.

“Over a thousand people murdered in the vilest of circumstances for that same reason – because they were Jewish. And even since October 7th, here in this country we see Jewish buildings, synagogues, schools, Jewish children targeted by antisemitic hate.

“I have been struck by how that has deeply impacted the Jewish community, struck by our own failings.”

But the Labour leader pledged: “This year on Holocaust Memorial Day,  as I always do, I acknowledge the work of HET, and Labour’s support for that work. And to recommit to the fight against antisemitism.”

Starmer was loudly applauded after he spoke, before he spent time speaking with survivors seated into the Commons terrace.

Michael Gove speaks at HET reception

Secretary of State Gove was also quick to praise the work of HET saying its “recruitment of ambassadors, the amplification of survivors voices, are so important, your’s is a light that will never go out.”

He added: “It is so important that the story of the past is remembered. It’s so important that the voices of the survivors are heard.”

Also delivering a passionate address was the Speaker of the House, who told of the need to “reflect on the depths to which humanity can sink.”

Hoyle, who said the memory of a recent visit to Israel to see first-hand the horrors of the Hamas massacre last October would stick with him forever, also recalled how one of his own constituents in his Chorley seat had recalled how he was one of the first to enter a Nazi concentration camp.

“He will never forget,” said Hoyle, “he will always tell the story of the day he went through that fence. Of the atrocities that he was to witness, that he never could believe.”

Addressing the survivors seated in front of him, the Speaker said: “I am in awe. Thank you so much for coming.”

It was then the turn of survivor Manfred Goldberg to deliver both powerful and thoughtful speech, in which he expressed concern about the way in which social media is being used to spread antisemitic hatred and lies across the globe.

Goldberg firstly praised the earlier speakers as people who showed “they still have the ability to differentiate evil from truth.”

But he added: “Language and hostile agendas” are now being shared on social media “without question.”

Goldberg said this was “deeply troubling” adding:”It has the potential to threaten the fabric of our democracy. Don’t think it will end with Jewish persecution.”

“Sadly it has become crystal clear that  these websites yield power… they must be brought under control to save our civilisation. ”

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle speaks at HET reception

HET young ambassador Meg Davis was also given a loud ovation after she spoke at the event, describing her own journey into working with the organisation.

In her own speech HET’s Pollock noted that Holocaust Memorial Day would this year be commemorated “against a difficult backdrop.”

Antisemitism was flourishing across society, schools, and in our universities, she warned, before stressing: “When he say ‘Never Again’ this year, we have to mean it.”

Among those to attend the HET reception was Sir Gerald Ronson, who was widely congratulated following the recent confirmation that he had been awarded a CBE, along with his wife Gail.

Others at the reception included Lord Eric Pickles and Lord John Mann.

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