Holocaust memories 'seared into me', Labour MP tells the Commons

An MP has spoken of the Holocaust memories "seared" into him after the Nazis experimented on a relative.

Labour's Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) said the Holocaust casts a "dark spectre" over his family with "all the relatives I never met, that never survived, the children they never had".

His voiced cracked as he recalled asking his Tel Aviv-born father why his great aunt had numbers tattooed on her arm.

Mr Sobel's remarks came during a debate focused on Holocaust Memorial Day, in which Conservative former minister Andrew Percy also urged politicians to call out hatred "whenever and wherever" it exists.

Labour MP Alex Sobel speaking in the House of Commons during a debate on Holocaust Memorial Day
Labour MP Alex Sobel speaking in the House of Commons during a debate on Holocaust Memorial Day

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sobel said the most poignant film about life in the concentration camps was Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful.

He became emotional trying to describe the film, noting it shows what the "horror of the Holocaust" means.

Mr Sobel added: "I remember as a young child sitting in my great aunt's kitchen in Tel Aviv, seeing the numbers tattooed on her arm and asking my father why - she was in the camps.

"She didn't have her own children or grandchildren, I had no aunts and uncles or cousins to play with, because the Nazis experimented on her and she couldn't have children.

"This hollow shell casts a dark spectre over my family - all the relatives I never met, that never survived, the children they never had.

"This is my own living memory of what happened and this is seared into me, when I make my own judgments politically, when genocide comes now to the Rohingya, to the Yazidi, round the world.

"But not just that, but when thinking about decisions more locally."

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Shadow communities minister Yvonne Fovargue and Communities minster Rishi Sunak came together to pay tribute to Mr Sobel for his contribution to the debate.

Mr Sunak said: "It has been a privilege to hear honourable members from all sides of this House this afternoon make powerful speeches and especially in the case of the member for Leeds North West, often very personal contributions to this debate."

It's a real privilege to hear @alexsobel speak in the Holocaust Memorial debate in the Commons. His personal connection with victims of Nazi hate was moving and a powerful moral compass for the challenges we face today. Well done Alex.

-- Luke Pollard MP (@LukePollard) January 18, 2018

Opening the debate Mr Percy spoke about a campaign which called for Labour Party members who have been expelled or suspended in connection with anti-Semitism to be reinstated.

He urged MPs across the Commons to "call out" such campaigns.

The Brigg and Goole MP, who described himself as a "full member of the Jewish community", said: "We have a new threat as well which is this new smear that anti-Semitism is in some ways being used as a cover for other things or is being used as part of a witch hunt."

Labour former minister Joan Ryan also said: "Despite the horrors of the Holocaust anti-Semitism has not disappeared, we have even seen its rise in British society recently, including I am ashamed to say in my own party.

"We must condemn unequivocally and come back relentless and this despicable trend."

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