Last week we marked Holocaust Memorial Day, when communities and people of all faiths come together to remember the more than six million people who perished in the Holocaust. We know that what became organised mass murder on an industrial scale began in Germany when Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in 1933.
Their rule saw Jews dehumanised, with the hateful Nuremburg laws stripping Jewish people of their citizenship and their right to vote. Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were targeted. Jews were rounded up and forced to live in ghettoes.
But even before the Nazis came to power, anti-Semitism was rife with Jews often blamed for Germany’s defeat in World War One. Part of the great work the Holocaust Educational Trust does is ensuring that young people learn and understand what happened during this dark time. And this work is now more important than ever with anti-Semitism in Europe on the rise again.
A report from the Community Security Trust (CST) this week shows that 2015 saw the third-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded in Britain. Of the 924 recorded cases, 354 involved an attack or abuse against Jewish people going about their business in public. Eighty five incidents were aimed at Jewish schools, schoolchildren or teachers. And there were 50 incidents against synagogues. Worryingly, this could be just the tip of the iceberg. A 2013 survey of Jewish experiences found that 72 per cent of British Jews who had experienced anti-Semitic harassment over the previous five years had not reported it.
The clear lesson from history is that we all have to take a stand in the face of prejudice, discrimination and violence. Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” He was right. This week’s report should be a wake-up call to all of us that anti-Semitism in Britain is happening – and it should be a cause of national shame.
Labour has a strong record of standing up to hate crime and ensuring that laws are kept up to date by pledging to strengthen prosecution guidance against anti-Semitism on social media. The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘Don’t Stand By’. That’s why we must do more as a country to support the important work of organisations like the CST. The fight against anti-Semitism isn’t a fight that we can leave to the Jewish community. It’s a fight for all of us.