Reception at Speaker's House and Panel Discussion at House of Lords, Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th July 2013

Reception at Speaker's House, Monday 8th July
After a long but successful day, Regional Ambassadors and other selected Ambassadors were invited, alongside members of the Holocaust Educational Trust team, to a reception in the Speaker's House, Houses of Parliament, to help officially launch the Trust's Ambassador Programme. Guests included MPs, sponsors and supporters of the Trust, members of the press and a small group of Holocaust survivors. It is always a privilege to speak to survivors and I was very moved to see that Josef Perl and his wife Sylvia were in attendance. I had the honour of hearing Josef Perl's last ever public testimony when I participated in the 'Lessons from Auschwitz' Project in 2009. When I told Josef this, his eyes lit up.
"Tell me, what changed for you after you heard my testimony?" he asked.
I replied that his testimony, along with the rest of the Project, had changed my life forever, and I am now looking towards a career in Holocaust education. I can't put into words how humbled I felt when a smile spread across his face.
"Sometimes I think that was all a dream, another life," he said. "Reality now is so different from what it was. But we must never forget what happened." It is conversations such as that from which I draw my motivation and inspiration to do what I do.
Speeches were given by the Speaker himself, John Bercow, as well as Lord Browne, who is heading the Ambassador Programme, Regional Ambassador Harley Ryley and Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow. Many MPs spoke to Ambassadors, including Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Regardless of political affiliation, I am very pleased that so many MPs came to the reception and took a genuine interest in what we, the Ambassadors, had to say.
Below is a small article about the reception that was published in the Jewish Chronicle a few days later.

Panel discussion at House of Lords, Tuesday 9th July
The following day began early for HET staff and Regional Ambassadors as we met in the House of Lords to discuss our aims and potential challenges over the next year with Lord Browne. This was followed by an extremely interesting panel discussion with distinguished guests Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust; Yehuda Bauer, world-famous historian of the Holocaust; Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon and Doreen Lawrence, whose son, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist attack 20 years ago. Doreen also heads the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Left to right: Karen Pollock, Yehuda Bauer, Lord Browne, Kitty Hart-Moxon, Doreen Lawrence

The main question addressed to the panel focused on the Holocaust's relevance in the 21st century and how to communicate its relevance. The following is a summary of the participants' answers.
Kitty: Persecution is still happening in parts of the world and could get out of hand as it did before, so that's why it's still relevant. In terms of education, it is a good idea to concentrate on one person or family so that people have a personal perspective and can appreciate the normality of the victims.
Doreen: Remembrance of the Holocaust is absolutely key. We can use the Holocaust to gain an understanding of how tensions can build and what can happen if they are left to build up too long. It is crucial that we educate our young people about the dangers of prejudice, intolerance, racism and hatred.
Yehuda: The Holocaust can be used as a starting point to show the danger of humanity to future generations. It is especially important to show the nature of mankind because it wasn't just the German Nazis that orchestrated the Holocaust; there were many local collaborators too. Who's to say that if the Nazis had invaded Great Britain there wouldn't have been collaboration here, too? Furthermore, when societies and groups of people are created, outsiders are established. We must do all in our power to combat that. Most importantly, in terms of relevance, the Holocaust is still the present, not the past - those who survived it are still with us today, so it has not disappeared from living memory altogether.
In terms of education, we need both historical analysis and stories from the individuals who lived and died through it to give a better overall picture of a very complex period in our history. It is also important that the context of different genocides is understood; for example, the difference between the Nazis killing the Jews and the Hutus murdering the Tutsis in Rwanda.
Karen: People often make the giant leap from what they learn on the Trust's 'Lessons from Auschwitz' Project to using it to highlight problems like bullying in schools, when of course, it's not as simple as that. We can only cover so much in the time we have in the Project, so there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the Holocaust in a wider context. It is imperative to teach young people about the Holocaust, but there's no straight answer as to how to do that as the topic is a very complex one.

The panel then received questions from Regional Ambassadors on topics such as the appropriate age to teach young people about the Holocaust, Holocaust denial on the Internet and if the use of shock, such as in graphic images, is actually beneficial in Holocaust education.