As we all know, the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year was being “Torn from home”. In the speech I made that day, I took the opportunity to speak about the way the Nazis’ attacks on Jewish people began slowly and escalated painfully. The attacks on lives were harrowing, because each new law, each new confiscation and each new theft of property was compounded by the awful, awful events that followed. We talked about how being torn from home was about the destruction of a whole way of life and a whole culture.

Of course, what was lost can never really be recovered, but we have a duty to respect, to remember and to understand that history, and to keep those memories alive. That takes a lot of work. Tragically, it is important to say that that work has never been more important than it is today. Each year, we lose more survivors of the holocaust—people of exemplary courage, resilience and moral fortitude who have suffered so much. We lose those who have taught us so much about not only the horrors they were subjected to but the ways in which the disease of antisemitism spreads: through lies and conspiracy, through baseless and manipulative accusations of disloyalty, and through an insidious, creeping and escalating dehumanisation of a people.

In recent years, we have seen a sharp rise in antisemitism across Europe, at home in our communities and, tragically, in our political parties. On the Friday we discussed this excellent Bill, other hon. Members mentioned the Community Security Trust, a group that I admire and thank. It has provided me with so much personal support in the work I have done over the years on community cohesion. The trust has released its report on antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2018, in which it has recorded a massive 1,652 incidents. That is the highest annual figure on record—more than 100 incidents every single month. I can only imagine how scary that must be.

We must all redouble our efforts to reject the politics of fear, division and conspiracy. As the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet said better than I, that change starts here, and it continues with this Bill. In that spirit, we are expecting to have a new holocaust memorial near Westminster in 2022, and like other hon. Members here today, I hope it will be very near here. The Imperial War Museum is due to open a new permanent holocaust gallery in 2021, which I also warmly welcome.

Returning stolen cultural objects wherever possible is an important part of this project. Returning artworks and cultural objects is not just about undoing the past but about recognising it and, frankly, about justice. Millions of people had their lives and their futures stolen by the holocaust, but we must remember that property was stolen too, and tens of thousands of objects stolen at that time are likely to remain hidden. Ultimately, we do not know how many cultural objects stolen and looted from the Jewish community by the Nazis are still in collections here or how many have not been returned within the lifetime of the 2009 Act so far.

That is why it is absolutely right that the Act is extended by this important Bill. The destruction wielded by the holocaust was intended to destroy a culture, a history and all the rich memories of that culture, that history and that people. For those who have lost family, the testimonies show what an important emotional experience it can be to have possessions returned to them. It is right that the named 17 institutions are able to make these experiences possible, as I am sure they will all want to.

In my final remarks, I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet, who has spoken so passionately and articulately about this Bill, for her tireless work on this issue. We must all ensure that what was stolen and can still be returned is returned, and we must create every single chance for some fragments of justice—however small in comparison with the enormous injustice of the holocaust—to be done.

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search