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Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Thursday, January 27, 2022

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Holocaust Memorial Day, Portfolio Question Time, Budget (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Adverse Childhood Experiences


Holocaust Memorial Day

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The next item of business is the well-trailed members’ business debate on motion S6M-02600, in the name of Jackson Carlaw, on Holocaust memorial day, to be marked on 27 January 2022. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put. Members who wish to contribute should press their request-to-speak button or type R in the chat function now or as soon as possible.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament reflects on the horrors of the Holocaust; believes that it is important to impart the lessons of this despicable event to each generation so that everyone is instilled with an ethos of tolerance and respect for all, irrespective of background; recognises that the Holocaust was the systematic attempt to murder all Jewish people living in Europe from 1941 to 1945; acknowledges that the Holocaust resulted in 6 million Jewish men, women and children being murdered in concentration and extermination camps and in ghettos and mass shootings; notes that Holocaust Memorial Day will take place on 27 January 2022 and that its theme will be “One Day”; understands that this theme, which can be interpreted in many different ways, has been chosen with the general aim that for the One Day of 27 January, people will come together to learn about and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides that took place in the years following 1945, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur; further understands that underpinning the theme is the hope that, by educating others about past genocides, it will be possible to look forward to a future One Day where there is no genocide; agrees that the Holocaust is an incredibly dark chapter in human history and that the Memorial Day held on 27 January is an important opportunity to reinforce the necessity of striving to ensure that One Day, genocides will become a thing of the past.


Jackson Carlaw (Eastwood) (Con)

Holocaust memorial day was first commemorated in 2005, so it is younger than this Parliament. Since I joined the Parliament in 2007, it has been a privilege, in some years, to have proposed motions, in others, to have participated in the debate and, more often, to have just listened with appreciation to the contributions from all parts of the chamber.

My life began in a community full of Jewish neighbours and friends, and I know now that many of them had first-hand experience of the horrors of the industrialised Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust. For decades, they kept their memories to themselves, often even from their immediate family.

Just as I remember that moment when Harry Patch—the last survivor of the conflict on the western front in the great war—died in 2009, it is clear that we are close to a moment when the diminishing number of survivors of the Holocaust will be with us no longer.

I am profoundly appreciative of the fact that I grew up in a community that was so rich in Jewish heritage. However, the surviving elected parliamentary constituency representatives of my Eastwood community—Kirsten Oswald, Paul Masterton and, in particular, Jim Murphy and my predecessor, Ken Macintosh, and I—are, in all likelihood, the last who will come to know and learn from those who were there or who survived the Holocaust.

In the past 18 months, Eastwood has lost two of its most formidable yet charismatic members of our community: Judith Rosenberg, Scotland’s last survivor of Auschwitz, and Ingrid Wuga, a beneficiary, with her husband Henry, of the Kindertransport just a few weeks before the outbreak of war in 1939.

Ingrid and Henry Wuga settled in Glasgow and, tirelessly, until her death in her 90s, Ingrid actively supported the work of Holocaust education and awareness in schools and communities. In her last five years alone, while in her 90s, she spoke to some 5,000 adults and children through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s outreach programme. For her work, she was awarded the British empire medal and is survived by Henry, who is still a familiar presence where he lives at Eastwood Toll. Indeed, I am delighted that, at the rather splendid age of 97, he was able to participate in Scotland’s national commemoration last night and grant an interview to “Good Morning Scotland” this morning.

Holocaust memorial day is commemorated on the anniversary of the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp on this day in 1945 by Soviet forces advancing from the east. Judith Rosenberg died at the age of 98, just a few days before this day in January last year, and I last met her shortly before the restrictions that were brought about by the current pandemic. She was as bright as ever.

What distinguished her testimony was that her recollections were of her experience at Auschwitz not as an infant or even a child, but as a young adult woman of 22. She could remember events with extraordinary clarity. Her story might be familiar, but nothing could be more affecting than to hear at first hand about the torturous cattle-truck train journey, during which her father helped pile the corpses of those who had perished in the atrocious cramped conditions in a corner of the carriage; the lack of food and water; and having to hack through the floor of the carriage to establish drainage for waste—something that was not achieved by many.

Most of all, it was affecting to hear the final message from her father as the train pulled to a halt at Auschwitz—somewhere that I know members of this Parliament have stood:

“If the Germans ever offer you options, always choose the hard option, because there will be an ulterior motive.”

Although she was not to see her father again, it was his advice that saved Judith and her mother and sister. They took it, and chose the option of walking the final 3km to Auschwitz, while all those who opted for transport were immediately murdered in the gas chambers.

She survived, but the privations and torments of her subsequent time there were appalling. Four months after her arrival, in September 1944, she was finally sent for her first shower in a building with a notice that read “Gaskammer”. You can imagine her terror. However, for her at least, it was just a shower. Sent to a munitions factory, she borrowed from her pre-war experience of the family watchmaking business, which was to earn her extra provisions and also save her sister and mother.

Because of her facility for languages, she was employed as an interpreter after liberation by the Americans. In April 1945, she met and fell for a young army officer, Lieutenant Harold Rosenberg, who she said never left her side for the next 60 years, having lobbied personally and successfully for permission from Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to marry. They settled in Giffnock in Eastwood. Presiding Officer, that was Judith Rosenberg, Scotland’s last survivor of Auschwitz.

I have dwelled on Judith and Ingrid’s stories because this was a Holocaust that was visited on people—on individuals who are in our community now who lost parents, grandparents and countless relatives and friends. We should never lose sight of the personal in any commemoration or remembrance of the Holocaust.

Auschwitz might have been liberated on this day in 1945, but it was this week in 1942, almost 80 years ago, that the infamous Wannsee conference took place and its notorious protocol was agreed. It was there, under the cold direction of Reinhard Heydrich and scribed by Adolf Eichmann, that the world’s first Holocaust was signed off—an audit of Europe’s 11 million Jews, a systematic plan to murder them all as Nazi conquest prevailed, and a decision to do so without delay, because, as it read in the minute, “useless mouths” should not be fed.

The one surviving copy of the protocol, which was called in evidence at Nuremberg, is municipally bland, even if its meaning is anything but. This, then, was the final destination of Nazi antisemitism and the relentless prejudice and persecution that had been systematically prosecuted and entrenched since Hitler came to power in 1932. Hundreds of thousands had by then already been murdered, but now and within weeks extermination was to progress on an unprecedented scale and with an unprecedented fervour, claiming the lives of 6 million Jews and millions more besides—Hitler’s so-called “final solution”.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust memorial day is “one day” in history. Of course, any day can be held in the memory quite differently depending on where one happens to be, and that was true of every single day during world war two. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust offers chilling examples.

On 19 April 1943, the Jewish inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto fought back against the Nazis.

In Bosnia, 12 July 1995 was the last day that large numbers of women saw their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. On that date, despite Srebrenica having been designated by the United Nations as a safe area, Bosnian Serb soldiers entered it and started to separate Bosniak men from women and children. Subsequently, 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered in and around Srebrenica.

On 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge moved into the Cambodian capital. The entry of the Khmer Rouge resulted in a five-year campaign of terror during which 2 million people were murdered by Pol Pot.

During 100 days in 1994, around 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in Rwanda.

Antisemitism and racial, sexual and genetic prejudice were not the unique preserve of Nazi Germany. In a previous debate, I noted that, in 1946, the year after world war two, more Jews were murdered across Europe than in the 13 years before the war combined. Many were killed where they stood when they finally made it back to homes that were now occupied by others. Nazi Germany fell; antisemitism existed before it and has prevailed since, and it has done so across our continent as much as anywhere else.

Of the other atrocities just mentioned, those in 1975, 1994 and 1995 were all, shamefully, in my lifetime. How hollow, then, is the mantra “never again”. Holocaust memorial day serves as a commemoration of those lost not only in the Holocaust but in the multiple genocides in the near 80 years since. Importantly, it must remind us of an enduring and permanent duty not just to pay lip service on days such as this but to confront, challenge, educate and defeat the forces harbouring and perpetuating genocidal schemes and all that underpins and facilitates them.

Like many, I have wept at the horror and barbarism of the Holocaust and of the genocides in my lifetime. Have we failed? Sometimes, it overwhelmingly feels that we have. What must our response be? There can be no other choice; we must rededicate ourselves to meeting the challenge, every year, every decade and every generation. In so doing, we honour the people who were lost. I know that, as a Parliament and a country, we will do that together.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, Mr Carlaw. We move to the open debate.


Annabelle Ewing (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)

It is, as ever, a great privilege to speak in the debate on Holocaust memorial day. I congratulate Jackson Carlaw on securing the debate and commend him for his thought-provoking speech. This annual members’ business debate is vitally important, so that we can remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and others and reflect on the genocides that we have witnessed since that time in our lifetime—a point that was well made by Jackson Carlaw.

In reflecting on what I hoped to say this year, on the 77th anniversary to the day of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I kept coming back to the life of one young Jewish girl whose story has resonated across the world. That, of course, is the life of Anne Frank, whose diary entitled “The Diary of a Young Girl” is known so well to us all. I read it for the first time as a young girl myself.

Anne was just 13 years old when she and her family went into hiding from the Nazis, in July 1942 in Amsterdam. Her diary reflects the hopes and thoughts of every young girl of her time and of every time. Miep Gies, who had worked for Anne’s father and who helped the Frank family to hide and stay hidden—at great risk to her own life, it must be noted—wrote a book about those times entitled “Anne Frank Remembered”. I commend that book as being well worth a read.

In her observations, Miep Gies recalled that Anne’s tiny bedroom wall in the hidden annexe was covered with pictures. There were photos of the big movie stars of the day such as Ray Milland, Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and Ginger Rogers, cut-outs of cuddly little babies, a photo of a big pink rose and a photo of chimpanzees having a tea party. There was humour and compassion, glamour and beauty, and the natural world—the many interests of a young girl, even one who was in hiding for her life. As someone who has been a young girl, I can well imagine the montage that Anne had created and what it meant to her.

Miep Gies made near daily life-saving visits to the Frank family, bringing them food, supplies, books and basic humanity. She observed that, in the summer of 1943, when Anne had turned 14 years old, she

“was spontaneous and still childish sometimes, but she had gradually acquired a new coyness and new maturity.”

Miep Gies went on to add, in her recollections of that time, that Anne had arrived as a girl but would leave as a woman. As we know, Anne was never to reach womanhood. The Frank family were caught by the Nazis on 4 August 1944 after being in hiding for 25 months. Anne, along with her older sister Margot, died in Bergen-Belsen, in early spring 1945, just a few months short of what would have been her 16th birthday.

However, Anne’s diary lives on, as it speaks to every young Jewish girl of the Holocaust. It speaks to those who, like Anne, did not reach womanhood, as well as those who reached it but were unutterably altered. It speaks to the young Jewish girls whose entire families were murdered by the clinical and calculated killing machine that was Nazi Germany and to those who therefore had no mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, uncles, aunts, brothers or sisters.

It speaks to the young Jewish girls who had to try to make a life, following liberation, against the backdrop of the barbarism and obscenity that had been visited upon them and to those who had lost their hopes, dreams and aspirations, and their very belief in humanity. For every young Jewish girl, I bear witness.


Sharon Dowey (South Scotland) (Con)

It is a privilege to speak in today’s Holocaust memorial day debate and to join members in remembering all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and in genocide since. Although we remember the victims of Nazi persecution—mainly the Jews—it is worth noting that Roma and Sinti people, gay people, political opponents, religious leaders, Jehovah’s Witnesses and countless others found themselves in concentration camps, suffering not just at the hands of the Nazis but at those of their collaborators.

One would have hoped to have seen some change with the arrival of the new millennium, but the list stretches on until today. For people in Myanmar or Kurdistan, genocide is not some distant memory but a reality with which they must live and that we must confront rather than commemorate.

Other members will discuss those stories in more depth and with more poignancy than I can in four minutes. Instead, I want to shine a light on some of the small but significant roles that the people of Ayrshire played during the Holocaust.

Let us take the story of Lore Zimmerman. Aged eight, Lore was one of thousands of child refugees who came to Scotland and the UK through the Kindertransport scheme. Having fled from Germany to Prague because she had communist parents, Lore then came to Britain and found herself at Rozelle house in Ayr, under the care of Colonel Claud Hamilton and his wife Veronica. There is also the story of Susanne Schaeffer, a 12-year-old Jewish girl from Berlin, who also came to stay at Rozelle, and that of Martha Rosenzweig—also 12 years old—for whom the Hamiltons found a home in Minishant.

Meanwhile, the Fultons of Carrick lodge took in five refugees, five months before the war had even started, including an eight-year-old and a young man who had been in a concentration camp. In a 1939 edition of the Ayrshire Post, Mrs Fulton wrote that more refugees were expected in the near future, before making an appeal for clothes and accommodation, which is echoed in the arrival of Afghan refugees today.

Then, there is Ingrid Wuga, who was born in Dortmund and whom, I know, the First Minister met before she sadly passed away. Having escaped Hitler’s Germany at age 15 through the Kindertransport programme, Ingrid came to Ayrshire and found a job sewing uniforms. Ingrid and her husband dedicated themselves to telling the tale of the Holocaust, with more than 5,000 people having heard her testimony. Quite rightly, in 2019 she was awarded the British empire medal for services to Holocaust education.

Although those stories are touching and remind us that humanity can shine through in even the darkest of times, the Holocaust will, unfortunately, cease to be a living memory as time goes by. Many survivors, such as Ingrid Wuga, directed education efforts worldwide through speaking about the horrors through which they had lived, but that experience is slipping away. As we all know too well, history is all too often doomed to repeat itself.

At 8 pm tonight, I will join others across the UK in lighting a candle in my window in remembrance of all those who have lost their lives to genocide. Those small acts are what keeps the Holocaust alive in the public memory, so I encourage everybody here to do the same.


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

On this Holocaust memorial day, I thank Jackson Carlaw for bringing the debate to the chamber and for his excellent, moving and thought-provoking speech. I know that the subject is particularly close to the Jewish community in Scotland, many of whom reside in Jackson’s constituency. My thoughts are with those who were murdered and who suffered from the impact of the Holocaust.

This year’s theme—“one day”—will mean different things to different people. We can hope that, one day, there will be no more persecution or genocide. However, the fact that oppression of minorities has existed for millennia and has impacted all corners of the globe does not bode well for that.

One day can also change a life and set in motion a chain of events that symbolise horrendous times and can make the face of one person the face of 6 million people. One such day was the warm and sunny 4 August 1944, when the lives of the Frank and Van Pels families and that of Fritz Pfeffer changed drastically, as did those of their selfless helpers. After two years of hiding in an Amsterdam annexe with no way of going outside, having to be quiet and living together with zero respite, and with no room for children to be young, stretch their legs or breathe fresh air, they were discovered. Of the eight members of two families, only Otto Frank survived. As Annabelle Ewing told us—again, so movingly—in her excellent speech, his daughters Anne and Margot, who were just teenagers, died of typhus and hunger in Bergen-Belsen just a few months later.

The outcome of a six-year investigation by an international cold-case team that was led by a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent concluded that a notary and member of a Jewish council pointed the Nazis towards a secret attic. I will not name him, because I am not convinced that conclusive evidence has been produced. Concerns have been expressed by expert Dutch historians and the Anne Frank Foundation, which said:

“There is much to be said for following this trail, but the argument underlying the new betrayal theory is based on a number of assumptions, and no conclusive evidence has been found. More research is needed.”

It has still not been proved that there was a betrayal, and it is possible that the discovery was collateral to a raid on the offices in the front house, where minor business illegalities took place. Furthermore, the alleged traitor and his family had gone into hiding in 1943, where they remained for most of the war. With so many factors remaining unexplained, how can we so easily accuse someone of sending people to their deaths? We should be particularly careful about adopting a narrative that says that Jews, under the threat of their own families being murdered, are to blame for Holocaust deaths.

I have spoken in many previous debates of the horrific crimes that were inflicted on Jewish people, so I will not do so today.

What befell the few who survived? What happened when they returned to what they once called home? A young Jewish woman called Blanka Rothschild made her way home to Lodz in Poland from Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, where she had been a slave labourer. After she had undertaken a long, dangerous and arduous journey, the caretaker of the building in which she had once lived tried to prevent her from going upstairs to her family home. When she went upstairs, the people who had moved into her apartment would not let her in and threatened her. Wandering, Blanka was taken to a chaotic, spartan and overcrowded displaced persons camp, where suicide and despair were all too common. Knowing no one and feeling lost, traumatised and bewildered, she eventually ended up in the United States.

There are countless stories like that. In post-war Europe, surviving Jews were driven away from their pre-war communities by the thousand, and were murdered by the hundred. Forty-seven Jews were murdered in a particularly vicious pogrom in the Polish city of Kielce, where only 200 of the city’s 30,000 pre-war Jewish population had survived.

Persecution continues today against the Rohingya in Myanmar, under the watchful eye of the formerly virtuous Aung San Suu Kyi. China has been killing, torturing and re-educating Uyghur Muslims for years, yet the world merrily gears up for the Beijing winter Olympics. Genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica took place only in the 1990s.

Not only today but every day, let us remember the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust and all other genocides; those who suffered in concentration camps, ghettos and the killing fields; those who endured months or years of existence in secret hideouts; the heroic individuals who risked all to help; and those who found refuge elsewhere. Let us encourage others to speak out and challenge discrimination and persecution. Then, perhaps, one day, it will stop.


Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I thank Jackson Carlaw for securing today’s members’ business debate and for his powerful speech. Gathering to commemorate Holocaust memorial day is an act of remembrance, respect and committing to not forgetting the horrors that Jewish people suffered, the fear that they experienced in their lives and the 6 million Jews who died as a result of the Nazi policy of extermination, and to reflecting on the 11 million other people who died under the Nazi regime. As colleagues have powerfully noted, today commemorates the date on which Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army.

I want to use my speech to reflect on the fantastic event that I attended yesterday, which was held by the Edinburgh Interfaith Association. It was a moving event that focused on this year’s theme—“one day”. It was a call for us to unite in solidarity against intolerance, harassment and the intimidation that people still experience today because of their faith. The speeches that we heard captured the need to remember, now and in the future.

In my studies at university, the Holocaust was modern history. We still had a raft of family members who were alive during the second world war. From my childhood, I remember my father’s Jewish friend and colleague, who had come with his wife to make a new life in Scotland. However, to young people today, the Holocaust is history—they do not have such family connections—so the memories that survivors share with us today are especially precious, and we must share those experiences.

I call on members to check out and share the video that the Edinburgh Interfaith Association broadcast yesterday. It provides a platform for the voices of survivors including Henry Wuga, so that they can say in a way that is powerful as well as emotional, how their lives were changed forever on just one day. It is also a challenge to us and to society to reflect on how we come together.

As colleagues from across the chamber have highlighted, in recent years we have seen genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia. The challenge to us, as MSPs from different parties, is to come together on the issue, and to build a more inclusive society.

People are still being attacked because of their religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. As Professor Joe Goldblatt noted in The Scotsman this week, antisemitism has been on the rise in the last decade and, shockingly, there was a 49 per cent increase in antisemitism in the first six months of last year.

I left yesterday’s interfaith event uplifted. I was also moved by the art of school pupils from Preston Street and Longstone primary schools, whose art was inspiring.

We have a responsibility not just to keep memories alive, and not just to communicate them to young people, but to think about how we can redouble our work to celebrate the world that we live in and to create a more diverse world. As Emma, who is a young Jewish student, put it brilliantly yesterday, we need to recognise the importance of biodiversity, not just for our planet but for humanity, to celebrate our cultural and ethnic diversity. Holocaust memorial day is a reminder that we have responsibility to support interfaith dialogue, to live in harmony and to support peacekeeping across the world in order to keep humanity safe.


Collette Stevenson (East Kilbride) (SNP)

I thank Jackson Carlaw for this important debate.

It is crucial that we all reflect on the Holocaust—an absolutely tragic part of human history—and the years preceding it, which saw a vicious spiral of othering, discrimination and Nazi persecution of Jewish people and many others, with families being forced to flee or to live in fear for their lives, children being separated from their parents and communities being destroyed.

We must never forget that 6 million Jewish people were murdered in Europe in that barbaric period. We must also remember the personal stories of those whose lives were taken too soon, and of those who survived. I commend the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which is vital in that regard.

I welcome the recent United Nations resolution to further tackle antisemitism and Holocaust denial, but it is painful that such prejudices and hate towards entire groups of people, including Jews, are still here. Just as the defeat of the Nazis was not the end of antisemitism, the Holocaust was not the end of genocide. Sadly, as Jackson Carlaw pointed out, since 1945 the world has witnessed genocide in Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and Cambodia.

This year’s Holocaust memorial day theme, “one day”, gives us lots to think about. Clearly, we hope that, one day, there will be no more genocide. As politicians, it is right that we talk about and reflect on the horrors of genocide, but it is also necessary for us all of us to champion equality and tolerance, to support organisations such as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and to spread the messages from today’s debate in our communities.

In one of his books, Elie Wiesel mentioned a peer in Auschwitz who talked about the need for hope that one day

“We shall all see the day of liberation”.

Thankfully, many people did see that day.

On that theme, I want to talk about Lanarkshire’s own Ian Forsyth, who sadly passed away last month. Ian was one of the first soldiers to arrive at and liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. After having witnessed the worst of man’s behaviour towards fellow human beings, that day never left Ian. For the rest of his life, he dedicated himself to Holocaust education.

A couple of years ago, I visited Calderglen high school in East Kilbride and I heard Ian speak. I was very humbled by his speech. I hope that his story helps our young people to keep alive the memories of the millions of people who suffered in that dark period of time.

I hope that today—Holocaust memorial day—everyone will reflect on the atrocity of genocide. Through education, we need to ensure that we build the ethos of tolerance and respect for all. We need to remember the words of Ian Forsyth, who urged us to

“stand together against oppression wherever we see it”.

We need to act to ensure that, one day, genocide will be a thing of the past.


Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

I thank Jackson Carlaw for his motion, for securing the debate and for his very passionate speech.

The Holocaust does not sit in isolation. It emerged from a broader culture of racism that was based on conspiracy theories. Although the actions of the Nazi regime stand out, they are part of a history of oppression of minorities in Europe that stretches back centuries. Antisemitism was widespread in early 20th century Europe. The tsarist forgery of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” crystallised a number of accusations against the Jews of Europe. Many of the antisemitic tropes that we see today, including the spurious claim about control of finance and the media, feature in those protocols.

At a time when the circulation of myths and untruths in the media is especially problematic, we must learn from that situation. Just as mass literacy allowed credulous people to be taken in by forgeries, so mass communication allows for fake news to spread.

Antisemitism was common at the highest levels of society, from Henry Ford to the British royal family. The actions of the Nazis were horrific, but they were based on a set of beliefs that circulated, and was accepted, widely.

One antisemitic conspiracy that we must confront is the replacement theory that is expounded by associates of former US President Donald Trump and others. As recently as 2017, neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting,

“Jews will not replace us.”

Given the determination of many to import US trends wholesale, we must ensure that we reject that pernicious idea.

It is dangerous to isolate the actions of the Nazis from those of wider society. As Primo Levi pointed out:

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”

Violence sprang from a well of prejudice and was not limited to the years 1941 to 1945. It sits in a long history of attacks on Jews, which stretches from the massacre of Jews at Clifford’s tower in York in 1190, through the persecution of the Jews of Iberia in the 15th and 16th centuries, to the tsarist pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Each of those rounds of persecution was the result of threats to the established order. Lashing out at minorities is a common tactic, and we must not forget that it is not just Jews who have been treated in that way. The Holocaust was an act of power that attacked Roma and Sinti people and LGBTQI people. In a week in which the United Kingdom has been criticised for its growing culture of hostility towards LGBTQI people, we need to take that seriously.

We, in this Parliament, need to consider our actions very carefully. We have seen an enormous rise in anti-trans hate crime, and we have seen Roma communities and Scottish Traveller communities being used for the cheapest of political point scoring. We are at risk of contributing to exactly the atmosphere of hate against minorities from which the Holocaust sprang. Hate does not always come in jackboots; sometimes, it arrives wearing a nice suit, muttering about “justified concerns” and creating an environment in which prejudice can slip into violence.

It is a task for all of us to prevent the atmosphere of hate that leads to violence, so we have a duty to tackle prejudice right now, not just when hate turns violent. Then, one day, we will have created a better world.


Kaukab Stewart (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

I express my sincere thanks to Jackson Carlaw for lodging the motion, and I am honoured to speak in the debate. I also want to acknowledge the educators up and down the country and across the world who are teaching our next generations about Holocaust memorial day.

It can be difficult to know where to begin or what words to use when attempting to contemplate such an atrocity. Indeed, that feeling was expressed by Holocaust survivor Sonia Weitz in 1995, 50 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, in a poem that she read aloud to a group of middle-school students in the United States. She proffered the following lines:

“Come, take this giant leap with me

Into the other world, the other place,

Where language fails and imagery defies”.

To educate ourselves and confront the most painful and depraved aspects of our history is to take that giant leap.

In our struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible, survivor testimony has always been one of the strongest tools that we have. As such, I would like to thank the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre in Garnethill, in my constituency, for sharing two stories with me and for keeping these memories alive through an extensive collection of refugee testimonies, documents and information about how the Nazi regime impacted the lives of people in Scotland. Jackson Carlaw was quite right to emphasise the personal in commemorating this day, and, on my visit to the heritage centre, I was struck by two particular examples in the archives.

Dorrith Marianne Oppenheim was Jewish. She was just seven years old in July 1939 when she left Kassel in Germany and came to Scotland via Kindertransport just weeks before the outbreak of the second world war. Her grandfather had received an iron cross for his services in the Red Cross in the first world war, as did her father, Hans Oppenheim, who was an officer in the dragoons. However, that could not save them from the Nazis.

Dorrith’s parents were unable to follow their daughter to Scotland and later perished in Auschwitz. A young Christian couple from Edinburgh, Fred and Sophie Gallimore, took in the young girl. Dorrith lived and worked in Scotland, later marrying Andrew Sim in 1952, and raised her family in Ayrshire. When she passed away in 2012, her family gifted thousands of documents, letters, photographs, papers, books and artefacts to the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.

The other story that struck me is that of Hilda Goldwag, who was a talented young Jewish artist living in Vienna with her widowed mother. She escaped to safety in Scotland in April 1939, thanks to the Scottish Domestic Bureau for Refugee Women, a Jewish and Quaker initiative that secured her a UK domestic visa. Hilda was exempted from internment as a refugee from Nazi oppression and was permitted to work while living in Glasgow, raising funds for the war effort. Later, she worked as a textile and graphic designer and was a prolific painter. She lost her family in the Holocaust and remained in Glasgow for the rest of her life.

For those people, and for the estimated thousands and thousands of Jewish refugees who came to Scotland before, during and after the second world war, this country was their salvation. We represented safety, acceptance and a light in the darkest of times. Without Scotland, the fates of many of those individuals hardly bears thinking about.

As the debate has demonstrated, it is rarely an unproductive or fruitless endeavour for a nation to consider its role in history. Countries must take ownership of the individual parts that they have played and reflect on the lessons learned, however painful. In this chapter, Scotland chose compassion for those who had been denied their most basic human rights, and we must take this opportunity on Holocaust memorial day to consider those in need of compassion today.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Before I call the next speaker, I am conscious that a considerable number of members wish to speak in the debate, so I am minded to accept a motion without notice under rule 8.14.3 to extend the debate by up to half an hour.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by 30 minutes.—[Jackson Carlaw]

Motion agreed to.


Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

It is a solemn privilege for me to rise for my party to mark Holocaust memorial day, and I am grateful to Jackson Carlaw for bringing the motion to Parliament and for his typically excellent—and moving—speech at the top of the debate.

When we remember the Holocaust, we are reflecting on one of the most horrific and barbaric acts in human history: the mechanised slaughter of 17 million people, more than a third of them Jewish, of entire communities, of huge segments of entire races, and, indeed, of anyone the Nazis found to be in any way deviant or defective, as they saw it in their world view. They were rounded up, shipped to camps such as Auschwitz and Belsen and murdered.

Today is also an important opportunity to remember the victims of other genocides around the world in our own time, and we have heard something of them today. Uyghur Muslims living in China are facing persecution as we speak. All of them are tyrannised, oppressed and tormented simply because of who they are.

As Maggie Chapman reminds us through the words of Primo Levi, monsters are real. They may wear business suits or military uniforms, but they have walked among us. We see the evidence of their works in the bleaker chapters of human history, and today we mark the darkest chapter of them all. Monsters are real, and the horrors of the Holocaust are a grim and obscene reminder of what can happen when we fail to recognise them and when we turn a blind eye to them. Horrific acts of this kind are often enabled by the passivity of those who have the power and the agency to act but choose not to. Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz, warns us against that. He tells us:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

The haunting memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, which stands in the heart of Berlin, symbolises the particular horror that can occur when those in power become corrupted and domination trumps any sense of service to one’s fellow human being. There is no limit to how bleak things can become.

We must remember that the Nazi regime was made possible only with the blind capitulation of thousands of otherwise normal people. The Nazis were successful at mass murder because they desensitised and normalised it. They inured every level of government and military to atrocity with endless layers of bureaucracy that reduced millions of precious lives to simple lines in a ledger book. That was described as the “banality of evil” by Hannah Arendt in her book about the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

In these times of relative harmony and liberty, it is vital that we do not become complacent to the danger of something like the Holocaust ever happening again. Indeed, if somebody living in Bremen or Cologne in 1930 had been warned of what would unfold in the coming years, they might well have said, “Something like that could never happen, and certainly not here.” We must not become complacent. We must remember.

I often tell the story of an incident in 2019 when I spent some time in hospital and the man in the bed opposite volunteered his belief that the Holocaust was a hoax. In the argument that followed on the ward, he revealed that the basis for his position was rooted in videos that he had seen on YouTube. Just this week, a school board in the United States voted unanimously to ban a Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel—an allegorical tale—about the Holocaust.

Challenging antisemitism and Holocaust denial falls to each of us. We have seen the grim evidence of its revival in the rise of casual antisemitism in UK politics and in the mass shootings and hostage taking in US synagogues. It is not going away, and we must do everything that we can to stamp it out.

The fact that we are here, living among many of the communities and minority groups that the Holocaust and the Nazi regime sought to extinguish, and the fact that we stand united in this chamber in our remembrance of them and those awful events, and in our opposition to the twisted ideologies that they were born out of, is evidence that the Nazis failed, that that sort of darkness will always fail, and that the human spirit will triumph over evil. Let us ensure with every fibre of our beings that that remains so.


Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I congratulate Jackson Carlaw on his powerful speech. Holocaust memorial day provides us with an important opportunity to reflect on and remember the tragedy of the Holocaust and the atrocities that were committed.

It is extremely important that young people have the opportunity to visit the sites of the concentration camps and experience what for me was only reflected in school history books. I recognise the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust and its continued commitment to supporting our young people’s education. I also want to mention the work of vision schools Scotland, which was started by the University of the West of Scotland. I became involved in that after being invited to join by Jackson Carlaw in 2019. I was due to visit Auschwitz with young people from the programme in 2020, but the visit was cancelled due to the pandemic. As many young people, particularly in Scotland and across the western world, have no lived experience of far right extremism or of the hatred and intolerance that come with it, I agree that education is key in ensuring that such atrocities are not repeated.

I will share an experience that gave me a physical connection to the Holocaust, which I have mentioned in the chamber before. It is worth repeating, as it demonstrates the impact of the Holocaust on survivors. I was a recent arrival in Los Angeles, California, in the 1990s. I was in the operating room at Cedar-Sinai medical centre, about to assist a surgeon with the removal of a gall bladder from a 76-year-old patient. The woman, who was of German origin, had been resident in LA for 50 years. She was very frightened of her surgery and being put under anaesthesia. I reassured her that we would look after her and keep her safe. I held her hand and when I saw her outstretched forearm on the surgical arm board, on her arm was a tattoo of a pale grey set of numbers—162753. I was overwhelmed with a quick flood of emotions—shock, anger and compassion all at once—so much so that I am not even sure that I remember the correct numbers. I definitely remember how they made me feel, and they still make me feel the same way.

What is burned in my memory is that pale grey tattoo, the significance of those numbers and the rush of emotions. I was 26 years old when I looked after that lady, and I thought about how, when she was 26, she was there—she was a survivor. The numbers that had been forced on to her delicate skin had made a permanent lifelong mark, but, more important, they were proof that she had survived the horrors and nightmares of Auschwitz.

That inhumane imprint on that woman has been part of my memory for 25 years. The visits that ensure that weans are involved in learning about the Holocaust and my memories of that survivor have contributed to my continuing to care about other victims of oppression across the planet.

I will conclude with a mention of the Jane Haining project. It is a new group that is creating a national essay-writing competition so that we can continue to remember Jane Haining. She was the daughter of a farmer in Dunscore, near Dumfries, and an amazing and brave woman who died in Auschwitz after refusing to abandon the Jewish children who were in her care in Budapest as a missionary. Jane Haining is the only Scot to be honoured as “righteous among the nations”, which is the term that is used by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre in Jerusalem for non-Jews who risked their lives to protect Jews from extermination.

I end with the words of Jane Haining, who said:

“If these children need me in the days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in the days of darkness?”


Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

The mention of Yad Vashem brings back memories of a visit that my wife and I made to Jerusalem and all the emotions that go with that. I thank my colleague Jackson Carlaw for securing the debate, for giving an excellent speech and for all his work over many years as a champion for the Scottish Jewish community.

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a member of the board of trustees of the Freedom Declared Foundation, which is a charity that aims to promote freedom of religion and belief in the United Kingdom. Like other members who are present in the chamber, I am a member of a religious minority that has had a long history of persecution and misrepresentation. It is perhaps because of that religious heritage that I feel acutely aware of the dangers of marginalising and othering people because of their faith, resulting in my personal sense of mission to call out religious persecution in all its guises.

The Holocaust remains one of the most horrific examples of religious persecution that the world has ever seen, and it is right that we have a specific day in the calendar to remember it.

Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

Does Stephen Kerr agree that one of the positive ways in which we can remember the Holocaust is by all members and political parties endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism? Until all parties in Scotland do that, there will always be a black mark against us.

Stephen Kerr

I find it regrettable and almost beyond belief that the First Minister has invited into her Government two ministers who have refused to sign up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. Given the fact that she stayed for the first part of the debate, I hope that she might reflect on that as a result of the debate.

When I reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust, I am always brought back to the words of the renowned BBC journalist Richard Dimbleby reporting what he experienced on entering the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen as it was liberated by British soldiers. That report was so graphic and distressing that the BBC contemplated not broadcasting it as he had sent it. Dimbleby said:

“In the shade of some trees lay a great collection of bodies. I walked round them trying to count. There were perhaps a hundred and fifty flung down on each other—all naked, all so thin that their yellow skins glistened like stretched rubber on their bones.

“Some of the poor starved creatures whose bodies were there looked so utterly unreal and inhuman that I could have imagined that they had never lived at all.”

That is just a glimpse into the horror that Richard Dimbleby witnessed and on which he reported. If any member has not listened to him make that report in his own words and voice, I urge them to do so on the BBC website as part of their commemoration today.

A question that I often ask myself and others have posed in the debate is this: what lessons has humanity learned from that destruction? If we had truly learned, would the genocides of Darfur, Bosnia or Rwanda have taken place? If we had truly learned, would we have the current situation in China?

Last December, the Uyghur Tribunal in London concluded that the People’s Republic of China had committed genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against the Uyghurs and other minorities. The tribunal found evidence of enforced abortions, the removal of women’s wombs against their will, the killing of babies immediately after birth and mass sterilisation enforced through the insertion of intrauterine devices that were removable by surgical means only. To honour the memory of the Holocaust, we must stand up for the Uyghurs and other minorities in China and elsewhere.

Although it is right to call out religious persecution overseas, we also have a responsibility to ensure that every member of the Scottish population feels welcome in Scotland, regardless of their faith or belief. It is too easy for insults to become intolerance, for misunderstanding to become misrepresentation and for principle to become prejudice. We must be on our guard.

My hope is that Scotland, alongside the rest of our United Kingdom, will be a world leader in stopping the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and division. It is unacceptable to marginalise people because of their faith or belief, race, ethnicity, sex or sexuality. One day, may we as a human race recognise in each other a brother and a sister and treat each other as such.


Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

I thank Jackson Carlaw for lodging the motion and for his moving speech. I am humbled to speak in the debate for the first time.

Seventy-seven years ago today, Soviet soldiers marched into Birkenau. The liberation of thousands of Jewish people left to die by the SS was not part of their plans. They found 88,000 pairs of glasses, hundreds of prosthetic limbs, 44,000 pairs of shoes and 6,350kg of human hair. They also found 648 corpses and more than 7,000 starving camp survivors.

In 2019, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I saw the extensive grounds—the scale of which is incredible—the original camp blocks, the guard towers and the hundreds of thousands of personal possessions that were brought by deportees. The deportees had no idea that they had been brought there to be immediately killed in the gas chambers or forced into slave labour by the Nazis.

My experience of Auschwitz-Birkenau has stayed with me since. One memory of that day is watching around 20 teenagers standing around the star of David flag, in tears, praying. I can picture them right now—it will stay with me.

In East Lothian, Whittingehame Farm school was a shelter for Jewish children who were seeking refuge in Britain as part of the Kindertransport mission. From 1939 to 1941, the school was home to 160 children whose parents were killed in the Holocaust.

This year’s Holocaust memorial day theme—“one day”—calls on us to use one day to remember the past and create a world that will, one day, be free from fascism, genocide and the politics of hate. For those who suffered for day, weeks, months or years, focusing on just one day is a starting point—a snapshot in time that helps to bring a small piece of the full picture to life.

“One day” is a way for us to learn about what happened during the Holocaust and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is one day to hear the testimonies, life histories and names of the millions of men, women and children who were murdered during the Holocaust and the genocides since because of who they were.

As the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust begin to slowly fade from living memory, it is important that we actively remember the events that transpired, honour the survivors and educate ourselves about those who lost their lives and suffered.

Today, I am thinking about those victims and survivors—families and communities whose stories have been all but lost. I am reflecting on the hate that caused the Holocaust and other genocides, and I am taking a moment to commemorate Holocaust memorial day and remember those who lost their lives to oppression and hate.

As George Santayana famously said,

“He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.”

Today is a day for commemoration and action to build a better future for us all. We all have a moral obligation to tackle, challenge, debate, discuss, expose and teach about attitudes and behaviours that allowed the Holocaust and other genocides to happen. We can never forget the inhumanity of the Holocaust as we work to protect human rights in today’s world.

May we never allow such human atrocities to happen ever again. My thoughts are with everyone whose life has been impacted by those horrors.


Paul O’Kane (West Scotland) (Lab)

It is an honour to speak in the debate as we mark Holocaust memorial day 2022.

I pay warm tribute to Jackson Carlaw for securing the debate. I have known Jackson for many years as we have both sought to serve the interests of the people of East Renfrewshire—our home. We have often sparred on various policy matters, but, on the vital importance of Holocaust remembrance, we have stood four-square behind our Jewish friends and neighbours in particular, for whom this remembrance is so deeply personal and important.

I am sure that Jackson Carlaw will join me in commending the on-going efforts of East Renfrewshire Council, the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, interfaith groups and wider civic society in East Renfrewshire for their on-going commitment to remembering the Holocaust and seeking to build bridges of respect and understanding among the many diverse communities that we are proud to serve.

I also take the opportunity to acknowledge the excellent work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Educational Trust, which are among the custodians of remembrance of the Holocaust in the UK. In particular, I mention another East Renfrewshire name—Kirsty Robson. Kirsty first became involved with Holocaust education while at school. She participated in the lessons from Auschwitz programme, which takes groups of young people to the sites of the camps, as we have heard from other members today. Kirsty took the opportunity to share her experiences with fellow pupils at Barrhead high school and beyond. She now works to support both the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Educational Trust, and her passion and determination really are an inspiration.

Kirsty has also brought together survivors from Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur to share their stories, and she continues to work on modern genocide prevention education, including the investigation into what is currently happening with the Uyghurs in China and other human rights abuses around the world.

Although we say “never again”, we know that, all too often, it does happen again. With each passing generation, and as we lose more and more survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust, it falls to us all to pick up the flame of remembrance and education, call out antisemitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and disablist views and actions when we see them, and speak truth to power when we see discrimination, hatred and the othering of people.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust memorial day is “one day”. We are asked to reflect on one day, on the magnitude of what happened, and learn from it.

Today, I will reflect on one day that opened my eyes to the real experiences of the Holocaust. When I was a fairly new councillor in East Renfrewshire, I had the great honour of helping to host a civic afternoon tea for Judith Rosenberg, Scotland’s last Auschwitz survivor, of whom Jackson Carlaw spoke so powerfully. I remember that, as Judith told her story, we could have heard a pin drop. She spoke of the day that her life changed in 1944, when, at 22 years old, she was deported by the Nazis from her middle-class life in the town of Gyor in Hungary to Auschwitz, along with her timber-merchant father and her mother and sister. On the platform at Auschwitz, the men were sent to the left and the women to the right; it was the last time that she would see her father.

For those members in the chamber who, like me, have visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, I am sure that the memory of standing at that particular spot is forever etched in their memories. To go back to the theme of “one day”, I remember, on the day that I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, the overpowering, deafening silence on the long walk from the site of the gas chambers, along the railway tracks to the infamous watchtower. The memorial reads:

“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity”—

a warning that, all too often, we fail to heed.

For all that Judith Rosenberg endured, I never sensed any bitterness from her. She said:

“after the war I felt that though Hitler was bad to me, not all Germans were bad ... When I was a child, my father taught me, that all people are equal, that it doesn’t matter who or what race they are, they are just people ... I think we should all remember that. If we do, then I am not pessimistic.”

Those words are some of the most powerful that I have ever had the privilege to hear. As we have heard, Judith passed away this time last year, almost to the day.

In remembering the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people who were killed in the Nazi persecution of other groups and in the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, let us remember Judith Rosenberg’s words and turn all our efforts towards, one day, truly being able to say “never again”.


Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

I congratulate Jackson Carlaw on bringing this important members’ business debate to the chamber, and I thank him for his powerful contribution. He is correct to note that members on all sides of the chamber are unified in our determination to help to educate future generations.

The Holocaust memorial day debate is an annual debate, and that is absolutely right. We should never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust, nor allow them to be forgotten. The Holocaust is an example of how brutal regimes can have a long-lasting effect on societies in perpetuity.

In speaking in previous members’ business debates on the Holocaust, I have highlighted my experience of visiting Auschwitz a number of years ago. Nothing can prepare you for the experience of going to Auschwitz and the effect that it will have on you. I, and others, at least had the chance to leave that day, whereas 960,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis there, and 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Even attempting to comprehend the sheer scale of those atrocities is impossible.

We owe it to present and future generations to do all that we can to educate people and to work with the various organisations that work in our schools, with our young people, to ensure that they know of that particular part of history. Such activity must continue to happen long after every one of us is no longer walking the earth. In my opinion, the day that society decides to stop telling that history is the day that the world gives up. Two days ago, it was reported that a Dutch tourist was fined after giving a Nazi salute at Auschwitz. First, the action was abhorrent, and secondly, it shows that there is still a job to be done to educate people about the Holocaust. There is no justification for any such action to take place anywhere.

When I walked into Auschwitz, I became numb. The silence was deafening, and the eeriness was startling. I have never felt anything like it, and I do not want to feel it again. As we walked about Auschwitz, we saw the various rooms where torture took place, the shower rooms where people were gassed, the crematorium where bodies were burned and the wall where people were shot, but one of the most striking parts was the room full of the shoes of victims who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

I have had the privilege of hearing in this Parliament the testimonies of survivors of the Nazi regime. The theme of this Holocaust memorial day debate is “one day”, which is only fitting and provides a sense of hope. After all, without hope, there is nothing. We hope one day to live in a world where there is respect for others instead of what we see all too often is still the case, but the Holocaust and the numerous examples of genocide that MSPs have raised today show how much we still need to do. We need to rededicate ourselves to doing all that we can in that regard. I would like to think that, one day, respect for religious and ethnic backgrounds and the eradication of intolerance will become a reality.


The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (Shona Robison)

I thank Jackson Carlaw for lodging his motion and for highlighting the significance of Holocaust memorial day in what was an incredibly powerful speech. I have to say that all the speeches that I have heard have been very moving and powerful, but I think that Mr Carlaw’s was particularly so. His tribute to the life of the late Judith Rosenberg, Scotland’s last Auschwitz survivor, was very fitting and important, and I thank him for it.

With regard to Jackson Carlaw’s reference to the end of living history and how significant and important that is, perhaps I can begin with a personal reflection. My late mum was in a school in Manchester—this would have been at the start of the war—when a number of children arrived on the Kindertransport. None of the children in her school had any idea why these other children were arriving, and there was a real lack of awareness of the absolute horror that was unfolding hundreds of miles away. In the course of getting to know those children, though, my mum’s own awareness was raised of the horror of what was going on, the prejudice, the racism and the antisemitism. It had a profound effect on her life and her views of politics and fairness, and it gave her a real interest in the international community and in things that were going on that should not have been happening. I guess that she passed a bit of that on to me, and I have tried to do the same with my daughter by telling her about some of those powerful lived experiences.

However, as the last of those lives—and that lived experience—unfortunately leave our earth, we have to find ways of capturing that testimony and ensuring that the next generation and the generation after hear that first-hand testimony about what happened. We must continue to remember all those from minority communities who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime and their collaborators. There were, as we have heard, the millions of people from the Jewish community, but there were also disabled people, gay people, Roma and Sinti people and, indeed, anyone else deemed to be different as a result of the othering of people.

While we honour the memories of those who lost their lives, it is also important that we amplify the voices of those who survived the Holocaust. We are fortunate that some of them are still alive today. I was privileged to contribute to the official Scottish national Holocaust memorial ceremony last night, and I remember, in particular, the testimony of Henry Wuga, who remembers the destruction of synagogues and the homes of his Jewish friends and family, with many being taken away to concentration camps, and of Eric Eugene Murangwa, who was protected from being killed during the genocide in Rwanda by his fellow football players. Such testimony is heart wrenching but also inspiring. Henry and Eric, and others like them who have borne witness to the depths of evil, embody extraordinary resilience. They ensure that the horrors of genocide are never erased from our collective memories and remind us of that vital refrain, “Never again”.

It is natural for us to want to consign these painful memories to the past, but a key component of preventing further acts of genocide is sharing the truth of this dark period with each new generation. Our children and our children’s children have to understand where hatred and intolerance can lead when left unchallenged. As time passes, we must do all that we can to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust does not fade, and moments in our Parliament such as this are important.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I thank the cabinet secretary for those words. Lessons absolutely should be learned. Therefore, will the Scottish Government unequivocally condemn those in Scottish society who are calling for boycotts of, and sanctions against, people of Israeli descent? That is fuelling much of the antisemitism, particularly in Scottish universities and educational institutions, in which we are seeing a clear rise in the number of antisemitic attacks. Will the Scottish Government be absolutely clear that all members of its Government condemn all language that is fuelling that very unfortunate and unwanted rise?

Shona Robison

Language is important. It is really important to distinguish between the Israeli people and the actions of a Government. It is legitimate to criticise the actions of Governments across the world but not to apply that criticism to a people, because that is wrong. Language matters. I hope that that helps to answer Jamie Greene’s point.

Professor Joe Goldblatt recently reminded us that

“Holocaust Memorial Day is critically important for current as well as future generations because, through their enlightenment, there remains the hope that future holocausts and genocides will be less likely to occur.”

That is why the Scottish Government continues to support the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to promote and support the memorial day in Scotland. The Government also continues to support the Holocaust Educational Trust’s lessons from Auschwitz project, which has been delivered as a bespoke online educational programme throughout the pandemic.

We have heard from members across the chamber about some of the ways in which the theme of “one day” can be interpreted. Sadly, the one day of liberation of Auschwitz that many were waiting for did not bring an end to the suffering that the world witnessed during that period. As time has passed, hatred and intolerance have continued to blight the lives of many people across the world, with more lives lost to those pernicious forces in places such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Sadly, millions of people across the world today are forced to flee horrendous violence and the threat of being killed, yearning for one day free from such unimaginable strife.

Days such as today remind us that our work is not yet done. Indeed, Scotland has a long history of welcoming people from all nationalities and faiths, including those seeking refuge and asylum from war and terror elsewhere. That includes Henry Wuga, who fled to Glasgow from Nuremberg on the Kindertransport, leaving his family behind. Henry will never forget his newly adopted home, where he settled with his wife, Ingrid, and had a family of his own.

Focusing on “one day” allows us to recognise and reflect on all the individual journeys, challenges and feelings of displacement and loss, which are hugely personal and unique. That highlights the importance of putting lived experience, equality, inclusion and human rights at the heart of our policy making in Parliament.

Holocaust memorial day not only allows us to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides but reinforces our on-going collective duty in the present to counter all forms of bigotry and prejudice. Hate must always be confronted and condemned, and the humanity of each individual must be recognised and celebrated. Those are the foundations of a decent society, and I have no doubt that that unites every one of us in the chamber.

This evening, I will join others at the UK national Holocaust Memorial Day Trust virtual event. With others, I will light the darkness by lighting a candle in my window at 8 o’clock to remember those who were murdered simply for being who they were. We will never forget. It is their suffering that should ignite in each of us a desire to build a kinder and more just tomorrow—one day, free from hatred, prejudice and intolerance.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That concludes the debate. I suspend the meeting, albeit only briefly, until 2.30.

14:04 Meeting suspended.  

14:30 On resuming—