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MP Cheryl Gillan: Speaking up and speaking out

TOMORROW (Friday) is Holocaust Memorial Day. It will be 67 years since the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated.

TOMORROW (Friday) is Holocaust Memorial Day. It will be 67 years since the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated.

This year the commemorative events in which many schools, community organisations and faith groups will take part will have the theme of “Speaking Up and Speaking Out” against prejudice today.

There is a lot of discussion these days about whether a particular word or phrase is offensive. What the organisers of the Memorial Day are asking us to think about is how events before the Second World War brought about the horrors of the extermination camps.

During the 1930s, in Nazi Germany, the persecution of Jews and other minorities began with the use of derogatory and offensive language. It became state-sponsored persecution and ended up with more than six million people being murdered throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.

It is important that people should speak up against hateful and bigoted language. Thus, Friday 27 January is a day on which anyone can play their own part and stand up against such practice.

There will be ceremonies and other events to mark the day, to honour the men, women and children who died. But there is also crucial, ongoing work being done by the Holocaust Educational Trust in schools and colleges. Through their Outreach programmes, Holocaust survivors are telling young people about their experiences.

Across the country, some 16,000 people have already taken part in the Lessons from Auschwitz Project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust. Students who have participated become ambassadors within the community to raise awareness of the past, but also to challenge prejudice now. I hope more pupils from Chesham and Amersham will be able to be involved and take this message through our community

 
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