282016Jan

Effective lessons must be taught on Holocaust

Michelle Donelan's column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald 28 Jan 16The 27th January marked the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp and is an appropriate date for us to commemorate the greatest atrocity in our history – the Holocaust.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 could not be more appropriate, ‘Don’t Stand By’. The Holocaust and genocides throughout history are allowed to take place because the vast majority stood by silently; because they were too scared to speak out, because they were indifferent to the suffering, or somewhere in between.

One main reason why it is important to remember the Holocaust is that the survivors are slowly lowering in numbers. This sad reality means that first-hand personal accounts, by far the most moving, are being lost forever.

This week the Education Select Committee published a report into the teaching of the Holocaust in our schools. We concluded that the teaching was inadequate, largely due to the fact that the teachers weren’t trained appropriately and we called upon the Government to do more. I believe that it is the responsibility of the Department for Education to support teachers to ensure that Holocaust education is as effective as possible, so that important lessons regarding tolerance, human nature and acceptance can be learnt.

Today we are facing arguably the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and it is right that our Government is taking strong action. We are the second largest donor of aid to Syria, over one billion pounds, and we have begun welcoming some of the most desperate people to the UK, including some families in Wiltshire. I know that the Government are looking at what more can be done to support more unaccompanied children who are living in squalid conditions in refugee camps and are at greatest risk of harm and are especially vulnerable to human trafficking.

Closer to home, on Saturday evening I joined those taking part in the Doorway SleepOut in Chippenham who spent the night sleeping in cardboard boxes, raising money and awareness for homeless people in Wiltshire. Thank you to all those who took part and to the Doorway Project for organising the event, particularly to Lisa Lewis for all her hard work.

Great Britain should never stand by whilst people are suffering, where ever they are. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said it right when she said: I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

This week we remember the Holocaust. Not just for the past, but for the present and the future too.2016-01-27_Holocaust_Signing