From Kristallnacht to Pittsburgh, we must continue confronting hatred

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 28, 2018: Lit candles at a prayer service at the Moscow Jewish Community Centre for the victims of the 27 October 2018 shooting attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, United States. Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS via Jewish News
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 28, 2018: Lit candles at a prayer service at the Moscow Jewish Community Centre for the victims of the 27 October 2018 shooting attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, United States. Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS via Jewish News

Eighty years ago, Jewish communities throughout Germany and Nazi-occupied territories faced a night of terror instigated and carried out by the state and its agencies.

As the sun rose on the morning of November 10th1938, those who woke in their own homes looked out on familiar streets empty of Jewish life and covered in broken glass.

An estimated 30,000 men found themselves arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps, ripped from their families and communities.

The events that unfolded in the wake of Kristallnacht led to untold misery for so many of Europe’s Jews, among them my children’s great grandfather who was himself interned at Buchenwald.

James Brokenshire with strictly-Orthodox community leaders in Stamford Hill

Mercifully, he was reunited with his family. But millions of Jews were not so fortunate.

The actions of that evening were a precursor to unconscionable events, that even those present that night could not have foreseen.

Last month, the devastating events that unfolded in Pittsburgh served as a painful reminder that we cannot let the lessons of this dark chapter of history be forgotten.

Hatred, division and intolerance are pernicious forces that, left unchecked, can have unthinkable consequences.

So let me now reaffirm, in the strongest possible terms, that this Government will not stand by and let prejudice rule the day. Wherever it appears in our society, we will oppose it.

We are here to support, protect and strengthen our communities and promote tolerance of all beliefs and none. I say this not only with an eye on history, but also mindful of the fact that challenges remain here at home, today.

In recent years we have seen increased reports of religiously motivated hate crime, intolerance and prejudice.

Only last year, the Community Security Trust recorded 1,382 antisemitic incidents across the UK – the highest annual total on record. We recognise these realities and are not complacent.

Last month, alongside the Home Secretary, I published our renewed plan to tackle hate crime in October, including further funding to provide protective security for places of worship, so that communities can continue to congregate in safety.

These actions can help prevent and confront hatred in our society, but we know that education is the key to effective long-term change.

We continue to support the Anne Frank Trust, Remembering Srebrenica and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to ensure we learn the lessons of recent tragedies.

Kristallnacht – 80 years this week.

And in the Budget last week, £1.7 million was committed to educational programmes in schools to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, ensuring the next generation hears the stories of those who survived the Holocaust.

I am also particularly honoured to be involved in building a fitting memorial to the Holocaust in Britain, to ensure that these stories are preserved for generations to come.

Jewish people have always been integral to British society, contributing to every aspect of our shared culture, heritage and national life.

Kristallnacht should serve as a lesson to us all. 80 years on, it is right that we reflect on the events of that terrible night and strengthen our resolve to confront hatred on all fronts.

About the Author
James Brokenshire is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup
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