UK party leaders sign Book of Commitment to mark Holocaust

Gordon Brown: "The whole world should remember and never forget - remember courageous men and women, and also remember the evil that was done."

Gordan brown 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Gordan brown 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
LONDON - The leaders of the three main British political parties commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday by signing the Book of Commitment in Parliament. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg signed the book, which contains a pledge to remember the Holocaust and join together to fight all forms of discrimination. The book was placed in the House of Commons by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) on January 14. To date, over 150 MPs have signed it. Established in 1999, Holocaust Memorial Day is an annual national event in the UK. Gordon Brown also welcomed Holocaust survivors Ben Helfgott and his sister Mala Tribich, together with HET chairman Lord Janner, at his Downing Street residence to mark the commemoration. "The whole world should remember and never forget - remember courageous men and women, and also remember the evil that was done," Brown said. "As [Nobel laureate] Elie Wiesel said, 'Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.'" "It was a great honor and privilege to meet the prime minister, and particularly that he found the time for us when he is so deeply busy," Helfgott said. "It is a great tribute to him that, in spite of the current challenges, he found the time to sign the Book of Commitment to ensure that the Holocaust will never be forgotten." A parliamentary motion in support of the day was also tabled by Labor MP Phil Wilson and co-sponsored by Conservative MP Greg Hands and Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael. In Parliament on Monday, Brown praised the work of the HET and particularly the government-supported program that enables high school students from across the country to visit Auschwitz and educate fellow students about the Holocaust. "We are delighted that so many MPs are supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. This and Holocaust education are more important now than ever, and this year's theme, 'Stand Up to Hatred,' highlights the importance of joining forces against hatred, prejudice and intolerance," HET chief executive Karen Pollock said. "At the HET, we endeavor to impart the history of the Holocaust to young people, across all communities, so they can see where hate and racism can ultimately lead." To mark the memorial day, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has joined the HET in publishing a new school resource. Martin and Erica's Journey, a book that tells the story of Holocaust survivor Martin Stern and his sister Erica, was launched at a reception at the NUT headquarters in central London on Tuesday evening. "The NUT has a proud history of supporting race equality and diversity, its importance and the lessons that can be learned from history," said Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT. "This is an invaluable personal record of the horrors of one of the 20th century's worst atrocities." She added, "We hope that this powerful story will help young people understand the consequences of prejudice and racism and in turn challenge all forms of discrimination." Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain boycotted official Holocaust memorial events in protest of Israel's offensive in Gaza. The MCB, which represents 500 Muslim organizations in Britain, did not send any representatives to any of the official memorial events. The decision was made at an MCB committee meeting last week. "There was no one in that [committee] meeting who was prepared to attend [Holocaust Memorial Day] this year without making a visible protest about the genocide in Gaza," the council said in a statement Tuesday. "It was agreed that the MCB does not wish to minimize the tragedy of the Holocaust or demean or disturb its annual memorial by attending and protesting about the genocide in Gaza, and it was therefore decided to abstain from the Holocaust Memorial Day this year." The statement concluded, "The MCB believes that the memorial for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust is to ensure that we make the cry 'Never again' real for all people." In 2007, the MCB called off a boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day that had been in existence since 2003, when then-MCB secretary-general Iqbal Sacranie claimed that the memorial ignored the plight of the Palestinians. "Regrettably the memorial ceremony in its present form excludes and ignores other ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world, notably in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," he said.