Stephen Lloyd on why Holocaust Memorial Day is so important

It’s not Holocaust Memorial Day until next week, but yesterday there was a debate in the Commons to mark the occasion. Here’s Stephen Lloyd’s contribution:

 

I thank the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) for sponsoring the debate. It is a pleasure for me to co-sponsor it. This is the fifth or sixth time I have co-sponsored a debate on this important day. When I was first a Member of Parliament I was proud to do so, and now that I am back in the House, I am even more delighted.

Let me also congratulate the indomitable Karen Pollock, who is in the public Gallery and whom I have known for many years. Without her, I do not believe that this day, and the impact and reach that it has across the country, would be as strong. She really does deserve an enormous amount of credit.

The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year is the power of words. I was reminded of that when I read some words only earlier this morning from Anne Frank, that remarkable young girl who wrote so beautifully in Amsterdam all those years ago. She wrote:

“When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears; my spirits are revived.”

That is such a powerful set of words for such a dreadful time by a remarkable young woman.

That comment and the power of words brings me to my own constituent. Eastbourne does not have a large Jewish community; in fact, it is fairly minuscule—probably only 40 or 50. Like everyone else in the Chamber and many across the country, however, I am here because we know that what happened was so wicked—as was what has happened so many times since in the different genocides from Rwanda to Cambodia and the rest—that if we do not emphasise and talk about this day, there is the constant danger that it will happen again. Indeed, it is depressing that when I last spoke on this day in the House the Yazidis were perfectly safe in Iraq and Syria. Two years later they have almost been destroyed as a people. I therefore profoundly believe that the commemoration and remembrance on this day must never stop.

I have an extraordinary constituent in the small Jewish community in Eastbourne called Dorit Oliver-Wolff. She is a survivor, and she recently wrote an autobiography called “From Yellow Star to Pop Star.” She was born in Yugoslavia. When the Nazis invaded, she and her mother moved to Budapest when she was only five or six years old, and they somehow survived through the four or five years of the war from hand to mouth, travelling from place to place, creating new identities. It was when she was in Budapest that she first realised she was Jewish: she was only five years old and a woman spat at her in the street and called her “A stinking Jew”. Can anyone imagine anything more utterly incomprehensible than that to a five-year-old?

Dorit survived and flourished, and moved to Eastbourne 10 or 15 years ago. She is a remarkable woman. I highlight her story because in many ways she emphasises one fundamental strength irrespective of the wickedness of Governments and people: the unfailing goodness and strength of individuals. That was true in the war when so many individuals saved so many Jewish people from Poland to Bulgaria to Albania. They are the reason why I profoundly believe this day is worth remembering and will continually improve human nature.

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One Comment

  • Thank you for posting this. Religious persecution is ugly, cruel, often violent, and – and still very much alive today.

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