Survey highlights targeting of Holocaust and genocide survivors


More than a quarter of Holocaust and genocide survivors in the UK have been targeted because of their religion or ethnicity, a survey indicates.

Some 27% of survivors polled by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) said they had experienced discrimination or abuse linked to their religion or ethnicity, with more than a third of their relatives experiencing race or faith-linked hatred.

In contrast, most of the survivors asked (72%) said they had felt very or fairly welcome when they first arrived in Britain to rebuild their lives.

Martin Stern came to the UK in 1950 aged 12 after surviving two death camps, and experienced anti-Semitic bullying and name-calling while at boarding school. 

Since then he has not personally been subject to anti-Semitic attacks, but he knows Jewish people in his community who have to walk a different route home for fear of abuse in the street.

The 78-year-old said: "I live in Leicester, and it has repeatedly happened that Jews who wear orthodox clothing, visibly identified as Jews, have had anti-Semitic abuse shouted at them in the street, and in one case I believe been physically attacked.

"Very few Jews in Leicester go around dressed like that. Considering how little that happens, within that small group it does seem to be rather common." 

He added that he felt anti-Semitic beliefs had evolved since he came to the UK and that crude stereotyping had largely been replaced by a distorted thinking that has become "completely acceptable" in large parts of society. 

Some 208 survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, including in Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia, and 173 family members, were polled by YouGov on behalf of HMDT.

Around half of the survivors (52%) said they waited for more than 20 years before starting to talk about their experiences, with 60% motivated to break their silence by a desire to help wider society understand what happened.

Chief executive of the trust, Olivia Marks-Woldman, praised the strength of those who were "determined to share their stories to help tackle intolerance and prejudice". 

She said: "It's shocking to think that these individuals, having survived some of the very worst acts in human history, have experienced hatred and discrimination on the streets of the country that is now their refuge.

"While many acts of hate are defined as crimes in the UK, the fact that persecution on the grounds of faith or race has continued, serves as a valuable reminder of how vital Holocaust Memorial Day is, and how as a society we must reflect on what survivors' experiences can teach us, in order to build a better future."

The HMDT findings come as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced £375,000 of new funding to further encourage the reporting and prevention of hate crime.

The money will go to a range of organisations working with faith and minority communities that have historically faced challenges in reporting hate crime. 

Speaking at The Anne Frank Trust annual lunch, Mr Javid said: "Holocaust Memorial Day is a stark and important reminder of what can happen when hate and intolerance spirals out of control and specific groups are targeted simply because they are different."