Holo­caust, Rwanda sur­vivors voice con­cerns

Con­fer­ence dis­cusses pol­i­tics of geno­cide pre­ven­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - HOME NEWS - BY RACHEL FLETCHER

WEST­ERN PACI­FISM and the re­lease of Holo­caust de­nier David Irv­ing were among con­cerns aired at a Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tional Trust fo­rum last week.

Around 25 young pro­fes­sion­als gath­ered at West­min­ster’s Portcullis House to hear Auschwitz sur­vivor Trude Levi and Rwan­dan geno­cide sur­vivor Mary Ble­witt. They rep­re­sented groups such as the Jewish hu­man-rights or­gan­i­sa­tion Rene Cassin, the Lon­don Jewish Fo­rum, hu­man-rights ad­vo­cacy group the Henry Jack­son So­ci­ety, the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents and the Labour Friends of Is­rael. The of­fices of MPs Ian Austin and Ed Miliband were also rep­re­sented.

Mrs Levi and Ms Ble­witt — founder of the Sur­vivors’ Fund (SURF) — re­lated their ex­pe­ri­ences be­fore re­ceiv­ing ques­tions from the floor about the pol­i­tics of geno­cide pre­ven­tion.

Asked whether she thought West­ern so­ci­ety was be­com­ing “more paci­fist”, Mrs Levi replied: “Yes, I think it is, but ed­u­ca­tion re­mains as cru­cial as ever, to make young­sters have to think and eval­u­ate. I think that is the only way for­ward.”

It was, she said, “easy to ma­nip­u­late peo­ple to do evil, and so dif­fi­cult to ma­nip­u­late peo­ple to do de­cent things.”

Ms Ble­witt ob­served: “So much money is spent on arms”, but there ap­peared to be no money for a peace­keep­ing force in Dar­fur.

She noted that de­spite an ex­pen­sive tri­bunal set up to try Rwan­dans in­volved in geno­cide, only 16 peo­ple had been tried in 13 years.

“There is a dou­ble stan­dard some­times of how we prac­tise jus­tice,” she said. “Ev­ery­one hides be­hind the United Na­tions. If we can go to Iraq and pun­ish Sad­dam Hus­sein, can’t we go to Rwanda and pun­ish [the cul­prits]?”

The Tehran Holo­caust-de­nial con- fer­ence and David Irv­ing’s re­lease led an­other guest to ques­tion whether Holo­caust de­nial would resur­face when there were no more liv­ing tes­ti­monies.

Mrs Levi, who is 82, main­tained: “David Irv­ing wanted pub­lic­ity. That’s all. Don’t write about them [Holo­caust de­niers], keep quiet about them. If we keep quiet, they can’t do any­thing. If they are be­ing ig­nored, they can be ig­nored to death.”

HET chief ex­ec­u­tive Karen Pol­lock, who chaired the dis­cus­sion, told the au­di­ence: “We wanted to give you par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, re­searchers and peo­ple in pol­i­tics the op­por­tu­nity to have your own event to com­mem­o­rate the Holo­caust — not nec­es­sar­ily in a solemn, can­dle-light­ing way, but per­haps in a more in­for­ma­tive, ques­tio­nand-an­swer way and a more re­flec­tive, think­ing way.

“We feel our work is more and more rel­e­vant to­day than ever.”

Photo: John Rifkin

Sur­vivors Trude Levi (left) and Mary Ble­witt (right) with HET chief ex­ec­u­tive Karen Pol­lock

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