ROBERT Halfon, MP for Harlow and chair of the education select committee, outlined the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day when he took part in a webinar with students of Harlow college.
Holocaust Memorial Day is an annual celebration, which took place this year on January 27, to reflect upon and remind communities of the tragedy that occurred, and allows us to honour the memory of the families and victims of the Holocaust respectfully. Halfon is of Jewish heritage, and was responsible for establishing the organisation Conservative Friends of Israel.
Rebecca Elsmore, a public services student, who had visited Auschwitz with her mother asked Halfon about the of the relevance of monuments. He replied “Monuments are incredibly important. I worry that as the years go on and people who lived through the Holocaust or served in the war, die off, the memory grows more distant.”
Alfie Walls, a carpentry student, asked what the impact would be if the public forgot about the Holocaust. Halfon replied: “If we forget about it, it will happen again. It would be an insult to the Jewish people who died. You learn from the past but you don’t live in the past. You try to learn the lessons and not repeat them again.”
The Holocaust (Shoah) occurred between 1941 to 1945 during the World War II genocide of the European Jews, where six million Jews were systematically murdered by German-occupied Europe. During the webinar, performing arts students showcased various physical theatre performances, in their own homes, interspersed with photographs of scenes from Auschwitz.
A few years ago, Halfon accompanied two Harlow College students on a very gruelling trip to the Auschwitz death camp. He later went on to support those students in delivering their message of hope, and tolerance to other young people who were studying.
Halfon highlighted struggles that Jewish communities face. “I was in a synagogue when a rabbi said,‘Please don’t congregate outside because it’s dangerous. We aren’t living in 1930s Germany – this should not be happening‘.”
Halfon highlighted a famous five-year case between lawyer, Deborah Lipstadt and ‘awful’ historian David Irvin, which showcased the importance of standing up against anti-semetic views. David libelled Lipstadt in his book. Halfon said: “She challenged him in court, and everyone said that she would never win and she’d lose the case. She took him to court for lying about those things and she won.”
Halfon does not support Holocaust deniers, but welcomes them because Lipstadt ‘destroyed David’. He explains that it is important to have debates and argue against the Holocaust deniers.
Photo: Holocaust Memorial Day Zoom webinar with Robert Halfon
Video: Robert Halfon’s anti-semitism speech in House of Commons