Holocaust, Rwanda survivors voice concerns
Conference discusses politics of genocide prevention
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.”
Survivors Trude Levi (left) and Mary Blewitt (right) with HET chief executive Karen Pollock